NEWS

PM backs Belgrade, wary on Kosovo

Athens supports a settlement for the status of Kosovo that is «acceptable to all sides» and promotes the Balkan province’s multinational character, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday during a visit to Belgrade. Karamanlis, whose trip came ahead of Serbian elections on Sunday, also reassured his counterpart Vojislav Kostunica of Greece’s backing for Belgrade’s European Union and NATO accession bids. Asked by reporters whether Kosovo should be granted independence, Karamanlis appeared reluctant to strike a clear stance until United Nations special envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari has submitted his proposals for the province’s final status, expected on January 26. Kostunica said he had forgotten what Ahtisaari looks like because the envoy has not visited Belgrade for six months. Serbian President Boris Tadic was more tactful but clear on Serbia’s stance on Kosovo. «We defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and we exercise this right in a European, diplomatic way,» he said. Serbia cannot agree to redraw its borders «as this would destabilize the whole region,» he said. But he added, «We do not want war or violence.» Karamanlis said all sides should avoid unilateral actions and allow the current process to take its course. But he stressed that any solution «must guarantee the rights of the (Serbian) minority in Kosovo and protect the Serbian Orthodox Church.» Karamanlis also discussed bilateral economic ties with Kostunica and Tadic.