Kosovo's Prime Minister, Agim Ceku, has praised Switzerland for supporting the former Serbian province in its push for independence.This content was published on January 20, 2007 - 18:20
He said the Swiss foreign ministry had pledged to help protect members of the ethnic Serb minority in the new state and encourage other countries to recognise an independent Kosovo.
His comments - published in Saturday's edition of the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger newspaper - come after talks between Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey and Ceku in Bern on Friday.
Kosovo's 90 per cent Albanian majority has demanded full independence, while Belgrade favours no more than autonomy.
United Nations Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari is due to present proposals on the future status of Kosovo next week. For its part, Serbia is holding parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Calmy-Rey, who is also Swiss foreign minister, promised to finance the infrastructure of two out of five local authorities with a majority of ethnic Serb residents in Kosovo.
Switzerland would continue to participate in an international peacekeeeping mission and provide police experts, according to Ceku.
He said he was convinced that Switzerland would be among the first states to recognise Kosovo's sovereignty.
"Calmy-Rey will always have a place in our history books because she was the first representative of a state to call for Kosovo's independence," said Ceku who was named prime minister in March 2006.
He urged her to encourage other states to join in calls for Kosovo's independence.
Most European Union members and the United States favour giving Kosovo Albanians a form of supervised independence later his year since there is no prospect of forcing them back into the arms of Belgrade after nearly eight years under UN administration.
Nato troops had intervened in an uprising during the late 1990s against Serbian repression in what was once the heart of a medical Serb kingdom.
The Swiss foreign ministry on Saturday confirmed "an exchange of opinions about situation in Kosovo and Serbia" had taken place.
A spokeswoman said the talks covered possible Swiss participation in efforts to protect the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo and a decentralisation of the administration.
There are about 370,000 immigrants from the former Yugoslavia in Switzerland, of which 36 per cent are from Kosovo.
swissinfo with agencies
There are currently 210 members of Swisscoy in Kosovo. They are part of the 20,000-strong Nato-led Kosovo Force (Kfor), responsible for maintaining peace in the UN-administered region.
The mandate for Swisscoy troops which have been active in Kosovo since 1999 runs until the end of 2008.
Switzerland is one of Kosovo's main donor countries. Last year it spent SFr48.6 million ($39 million) in reconstruction and development aid.
The equivalent to 10% of the population of Kosovo live in Switzerland. Ethnic Albanians became the second biggest foreign community in Switzerland in the 1990s.
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