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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Balkans Envoy Picked for Kosovo Talks

Russia has appointed senior diplomat Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko to represent the country in negotiations on the future status of Serbia's Kosovo province, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

"We can officially confirm the appointment," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. Botsan-Kharchenko is Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's special Balkans envoy.

He will join one representative each from the European Union and the United States in the so-called Troika, which has been formed to try to broker an agreement on the future status of Kosovo.

Western powers back a proposal to set Kosovo on the path to independence from Serbia, but that was blocked in the United Nations Security Council by Russia. The Troika format was proposed as an alternative.

In a separate statement Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said no "artificial" deadlines should be set for the completion of the talks.

That is likely to put Moscow at odds with the Western powers who sponsored the Troika plan, because they had said the talks should go on for no longer than 120 days.

"Predetermining the outcome the mediators will reach, pushing the Ahtisaari plan [to set Kosovo on the path to independence] that the Serbs have rejected, setting artificial time limits on the negotiations -- all this is incompatible with the aim of reaching a compromise," the statement said. "At the current, critical stage of the status talks process, practices such as these must be ruled out."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence from Serbia, but many Serbs see the province as their spiritual heartland.

Russia has backed Serbia, saying independence for Kosovo could set a precedent that fuels separatist conflicts elsewhere in Europe.

But Western powers warn that delaying a decision could be more dangerous, forcing Kosovo's Albanians to declare independence unilaterally.