The Netherlands would support Kosovo's partition along ethnic lines if ethnic Albanians and Serbia's officials agree on it in upcoming talks aimed at resolving the issue, the Dutch foreign minister said Tuesday.
Maxime Verhagen encouraged negotiators to break the impasse over the future political status of the volatile province and "think out of the box and not to stick to positions."
"If those parties ... can accept a solution which is also workable, which can be put on the ground, then it is of course supported by the Netherlands, including nontraditional solutions," Verhagen told reporters.
The Dutch official was responding to questions concerning his remark that the province could be divided into a northern Serb part and an Albanian dominated mainland Kosovo.
"It is absolutely necessary that we come out of the former positions if we are to have real discussions, real negotiations in Vienna," he said after meeting Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.
Sejdiu was quick to dismiss comments on partitioning the province.
"People have a right to different ideas and proposals," said Sejdiu, who will lead the Albanian negotiating team into talks in the Austrian capital Thursday. "For us, it is important that we have a clear determination for preserving Kosovo's integrity."
In Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic also rejected the idea of partition.
The "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia cannot be brought into question. We are against the partition of Serbia, therefore we are against the partition of Kosovo," Jeremic said.
The 120-day talks will be followed by a report from international envoys to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10.
So far, negotiators on both sides remained adamant they would not retreat from their positions. Ethnic Albanians seek independence, while Serbia insists Kosovo remains part of the country.
The province is formally a part of Serbia, although it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since the end of the 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces.
Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari proposed, after yearlong talks, that Kosovo become independent but retain an international presence to guarantee the rights of the Serb minority.
The talks failed after Russia threatened to block any such move in the U.N. Security Council.