Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO's secretary-general, said in Brussels Friday Kosovo has to be the place where ethnic Albanians and Serbs live together and without fear, regardless of what would be its future status, the Serbian news agency Tanjug reported.
The NATO contingent of 16,450 peacekeepers will remain stationed in Kosovo and if need be the number will be beefed up, spokesman James Appathurai said at the end of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said he received assurances from U.S. Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, commander of NATO's allied joint force command in Naples, Italy, that peacekeepers, stationed in Kosovo since 1999, will do all in their power to safeguard peace and security in the province.
Two-year-long Serb-ethnic Albanian talks ended late in November without reaching agreement on Kosovo's status. Albanians insist on independence from Serbia, which refuses to accept the idea.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the Kosovo issue later this month.