Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey will discuss the future status of Kosovo during talks this week with the Serbian government in Belgrade.
Her visit comes less than a month after a senior Swiss diplomat referred to the possibility of independence for the province during a speech to the United Nations Security Council.
The Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York, Peter Maurer, spoke of an "evolution towards a formal independence" for Kosovo at a Security Council meeting on May 27.
He said it was neither "desirable nor realistic" to imagine that the province would return to Serbian sovereignty.
His comments have been criticised by some Swiss politicians as well as the government in Belgrade.
Speaking ahead of Calmy-Rey’s arrival in the capital on Thursday, an advisor to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called on Switzerland to "remain neutral" and not take a position on the future of Kosovo at this stage.
The province officially remains part of Serbia and Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been under UN and Nato administration since a 78-day Nato-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in 1999.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that Calmy-Rey would bring up the subject of Kosovo during talks on Thursday and Friday with Kostunica and Serbian President Boris Tadic.
"In addition to the development of bilateral relations, the talks will focus on the situation in Kosovo and in the region [as a whole], as well as on questions of European cooperation," Ivo Sieber, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told swissinfo.
Earlier this year Tadic declared he would "never accept" an independent Kosovo. He said he would do everything in his power to prevent secession.
Future of Kosovo
Calmy-Rey’s visit comes as international envoys gather in Kosovo to discuss what needs to be done before formal talks on the province’s future status can begin.
Switzerland shares the view that two key conditions for the talks are the strengthening of democracy and the guaranteeing of minority rights.
"To allow for a form of formal independence... special emphasis should be put on close international monitoring which would ensure the protection of minorities and their active participation in the decision-making process in Kosovo," said Sieber.
The Swiss foreign minister is expected to tour the province when she embarks on her first official visit to Kosovo at the end of July or beginning of August.
Swiss soldiers have been deployed as part of the multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo since 1999.
Calmy-Rey's counterpart at the economics ministry, Joseph Deiss, returned last month from a trip to Belgrade which focused on economic ties with Serbia and Montenegro.
During his trip Deiss stressed the importance of political stability for attracting future investment in the country.
In 2005 Switzerland will provide SFr25 million ($20 million) for development projects in Serbia and Montenegro.
swissinfo with agencies
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey will be in Belgrade from Thursday to Saturday.
She is set to discuss the state of bilateral ties with Serbia and Montenegro as well as the future status of Kosovo.
Calmy-Rey will meet Serbian President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other senior government officials.
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