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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Call for Change on Kosovo Border

Russia and Yugoslavia called on NATO on Wednesday to amend the rules governing the buffer zone along Kosovo's border with the rest of Serbia and proposed conditions for elections in the province.

As well as pressing the West for change in Kosovo, Belgrade's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said their talks in Moscow on Wednesday bolstered political and economic ties between the two traditional Orthodox and Slav allies.

"The current Military Technical Agreement sealed with NATO does not in our view fully answer [the current] questions," Ivanov said, praising the rapid changes in Yugoslavia since mass demonstrations toppled former President Slobodan Milosevic last October.

"This is all the more true because the agreement was signed with NATO and, as you know, multinational forces are involved [in Kosovo], not just NATO forces," Ivanov told reporters.

Russia has about 3,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Yugoslavia is emerging from economic and diplomatic isolation since President Vojislav Kostunica replaced the autocratic Milosevic after 13 years in power.

Svilanovic said Belgrade wanted to strengthen ties with Europe, the United States and traditional friend Russia and said he was getting increasing support from them for a change in the tense five-kilometer-wide buffer zone between Kosovo and southern Serbia. It was set up as part of the deal that ended NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia.

Armed Albanian separatists have been operating inside the zone and Belgrade alleges they want to join the area to Kosovo.

But it has little ability to counter the guerrillas because heavily armed Yugoslav forces are banned from the zone under the deal with NATO — a condition Western generals demanded, to ensure their troops on the Kosovo border would not be taken by surprise by any new Yugoslav attack on the province.

Svilanovic said the agreement should be amended as a sign of the vastly improved relations between Belgrade and the West.

"Our position is that there is no basis for carrying on with the zone in its current form and we could either get rid of it totally, narrow it down or apply a more limited regime."

Ivanov said Russia, a fierce critic of NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, backed the idea and would not support any calls for Kosovan independence.

"We think international forces in Kosovo should take all essential measures to stop armed attacks by Albanian terrorists in southern Serbia," he said, adding that Russia would "above all [demand] strict respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia."

Kosovo is now under UN administration. The region's new chief, Denmark's Hans Haekkerup, said Tuesday he wanted early elections in Kosovo, which local Albanians favor as a route to more autonomy.