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Clinton makes diplomatic call to splintered Balkan states

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with members of the Bosnian tripartite presidency in Sarajevo on October 12, 2010.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with members of the Bosnian tripartite presidency in Sarajevo on October 12, 2010.
  • Clinton says Balkan integration into the EU "remains out of reach"
  • Clinton is to visit Serbia and Kosovo in the wake of a U.N. court opinion on Kosovo independence
  • The secretary of state will end her trip with meetings with EU and NATO officials
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Europe

(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed Monday night in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo for the first leg of a diplomatic swing through three Balkan states.

After visiting Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, Clinton is expected to conclude her visit with a stop in Brussels, Belgium, where she is scheduled to meet with high EU and NATO officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The U.S. secretary of state's agenda focuses on the U.S. commitment to all Balkan states joining the EU and the goal of NATO membership for Bosnia, Assistant Secretary Philip H. Gordon said in a briefing before Clinton's departure. The goals are designed to promote stability in a region still rife with ethnic division nearly 15 years after the end of a civil war that resulted in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

After a closed-door meeting with Bosnian leadership Tuesday morning, represented by three leaders collectively termed the "tri-presidency," Clinton addressed a town hall meeting at the University of Sarajevo, which was attended by faculty and students from nearby universities and high schools.

"The Balkans are a critical part of Europe -- dynamic and resilient, rich in culture and history," according to Clinton's prepared remarks. "Recent history has seen a great deal of pain and conflict. But the people of the Balkans have worked hard to move beyond the violence, and to rebuild."

She also stressed that the reconciliation process is far from complete.

"Hatreds have eased, but nationalism persists," Clinton said. "Meanwhile, the promise of greater stability and opportunity, represented by integration into Europe, remains out of reach."

Bosnia has not yet met the requirements necessary for a new member country to join the EU.

Wednesday, Clinton continues on to Kosovo, where she is to meet with acting President Jakup Krasniqi, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni.

Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia in 2008. Serbia, which still opposes Kosovo's independence, contested the legality of Kosovo's separation before the U.N. International Court of Justice. The court handed down a non-binding opinion in September 2010 that the separation was not in violation of international law. The United States supports Kosovo independence, and the country is recognized diplomatically by 70 nations. The Russian Federation was opposed to Kosovo's separation from its traditional ally Serbia.

After her meeting with Kosovo's leadership, Clinton is scheduled to meet with representatives of Kosovo's minority ethnic Serbs.

In Brussels on Thursday, Clinton will meet with EU Council President Van Rompuy and EU High Representative Baroness Ashton. She will then meet with Gates for a joint NATO ministerial comprised of NATO members' foreign and defense ministers on the new "Strategic Concept" and on the war in Afghanistan.