Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visiting Yugoslav counterpart Vojislav Kostunica insisted Friday that the rebellious province of Kosovo must remain a part of Yugoslavia.
The two men called in a joint statement for "a start as soon as possible to political negotiations and the conclusion of an accord on the status of the territory within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
In the statement, released by the Kremlin, Putin and Kostunica demanded the creation of a multi-ethnic, democratic society in Yugoslavia and the full implementation of UN resolution 1244 on Kosovo of June 10, 1999.
The resolution incorporates a seven-point charter drawn up by G-8 foreign ministers which calls for "substantial self-government" for the ethnic-Albanian majority province while taking "full account" Yugoslavia's territorial integrity.
Putin and Kostunica said the short-term priority was to "help Yugoslavia rebuild its economy and overcome the consequences of the NATO and (Western) sanctions" against Belgrade.
"Russia and Yugoslavia believe that one of the most important factors in stabilizing the situation in the Balkans is the full normalization (of ties) and the creation of relations of good-neighborliness between all states created on the territory of the former Yugoslavia," their statement added.
The Putin-Kostunica statement further stressed the importance of Yugoslavia resuming its place in international bodies on an equal basis, notably the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
They also called on the international community to help Yugoslavia's new government rebuild a democratic civil society in the country -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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