U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Kosovo, Wednesday, after urging Serbia to come to terms with the independence of its ethnic-Albanian former province. It is the first visit by a secretary of state to an independent Kosovo.
Clinton will hold talks with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other top Kosovar officials in Pristina. But she will also make a visit to an ethnic Serb town to underscore American support for minority rights in the new country.
The status of Kosovo dominated Clinton’s talks in Serbia, where President Boris Tadic again said his government will never recognize its former province as an independent state.
Nonetheless, the Serbian leader says his government is ready to open talks with Pristina officials aimed at easing problems in relations, in line with an appeal for dialogue in September by the United Nations General Assembly.
At a media event with Mr. Tadic, Clinton said the United Nations measure provides a basis for a “meaningful forward-looking dialogue” between Belgrade and Pristina.
“That dialogue can and will benefit people in Kosovo and Serbia, by addressing practical, day to day issues and the long-term relationship between you,” she said. “It will also have a positive impact on the relationship between Serbia, your neighbors, Europe and the United States.”
Clinton praised the Tadic government for its commitment to human rights and its pledge – renewed by the Serbian President at Tuesday’s media appearance – to bring to justice remaining Balkans war crimes fugitives including former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic.
In her outreach to minority Serbs in Kosovo, Clinton will visit the town of Gracanica, in an ethnic-Serb enclave about ten kilometers outside of Pristina.
She will meet municipal leaders of several mainly-Serb towns and visit and tour the Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Monastery, one of the holiest Serb religious shrines and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The United States and most European Union member states are among the more than 70 countries that have recognized Kosovo’s 2008 independence declaration.
The Kosovo stop is the last on Clinton’s brief Balkans tour, which took her to Serbia and also Bosnia-Herzegovina. Late Wednesday, she flies to Brussels for NATO defense and foreign ministers meetings.