An international meeting on the future of Kosovo last week did not take a stand on the province’s sought-for independence, but six nations vowed to take the first step toward settling its status this summer.

The Pristina meetings were held on the heels of a report by the Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group, which called for independence as a brake against the rekindled flames of war.

The countries of the “Contact Group,” however, announced that they would review Kosovo’s progress on issues such as democratic reform, a free market, law and minority safety in mid-2005.

If the results are good, then and only then would they tackle the subject of whether Kosovo would remain part of Serbia.

A statement released by the State Department declared that the group emphasized that the future of Kosovo “will depend on a positive outcome of this comprehensive review.”

The statement dovetailed with the public policy of the United States toward the region, but six countries prepared the text.

The group is composed of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Russian Federation.

Its representatives met with the United Nations, NATO-led peacekeepers and local government officials and opposition and minority leaders on Feb. 1 and 2.

The think-tank report called for independence by 2006.

“Time is running out for Kosovo,” it began. “The status quo will not hold. ... The Albanian majority expects the international community to begin delivering this year on its independence aspirations.”

The Europe program director for the crisis group said the governments’ release was not surprising. “It said pretty much what I’d expect it to say,” Nicholas Whyte said.

He nonetheless hoped further meetings would finally settle the question in favor of independence. He added that the February meetings “were a step in that direction.”

“My understanding is that there’s many things going behind the scenes, but I wouldn’t want to comment any further in the media,” Whyte said.

Serbia maintains that Kosovo belongs to it; ethnic Serbs inside the province agree. Ethnic Albanians want out.

According to the U.S. Office Pristina, the contact group will continue to meet regularly.

A spokesman for the office said Kathleen Stephens, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, represented Washington at the most recent meetings.

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