VIENNA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — An international group monitoring Kosovo’s internal situation on Tuesday called on the ruling authority in Pristina to “reach out actively to its Serb citizens,” by giving them a greater role in running their own affairs.

The remark was made in a statement following a meeting of the 25-nation International Steering Group (ISG), which was held in Vienna.

“The ISG urges the government of Kosovo to reach out actively to its Serb citizens, particularly those in its northern municipalities, by improving its public commitment and communication and by offering real, practical support to them,” said the statement.

For the north of Kosovo, this would mean “very substantial decentralisation” offered by the Comprehensive Settlement Proposal (CSP), the statement added.

It goes on to say, “The government needs to demonstrate that it understands and respects their rights, their concerns, their language and their identity.”

Chief of the International Civilian Office (ICO) Pieter Feith said after the meeting that the organization, which operates under the ISG, will end its supervising mandate in Kosovo this year.

Tensions in north Kosovo rose last summer when Kosovo authorities ordered special police units to take over two border crossings with Serbia. Local Serbs responded by setting on of them on fire and blocking roads.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia still considers the territory to be one of its provinces.

Although the EU has not recognised Kosovo’s independence, the leading European states have exchanged ambassadors with Pristina.

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