DUBROVNIK, Croatia (Reuters) - Serbia need not recognize Kosovo formally but must be realistic and resume practical dialogue with its former province to help its own European Union membership bid, a senior U.S. official said on Saturday.
"Neither we nor the EU expect Serbia to recognize Kosovo at this point, it won't do that," Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told a diplomatic summit in Croatia's southern Adriatic city of Dubrovnik.
"However, Serbia will have to come to terms with the reality of a democratic, sovereign, independent and multiethnic Kosovo within its current borders... Partition is not an option," he said, while reiterating Washington's support for Serbia and Kosovo's wish to join the European Union.
The European Union made Serbia an official candidate for membership in March, but said its further progress depends largely on its relations with Kosovo.
Western powers, including Washington, agreed this week to stop overseeing Kosovo in September, four years after it gained independence, but NATO troops and EU police will remain in Kosovo, where ethnic clashes still break out occasionally.
In one such incident, Kosovo police reported on Saturday that a Serb couple had been found shot dead at their home in the southern Kosovo village of Talinoc, which is surrounded by ethnic Albanian communities.
Local media said the husband, Milovan Jevtic, was a community leader helping other Serbs who had fled during ethnic conflict in the late 1990s to return to the village, a program supported by the Kosovo government and international donors.
Gordon, who will travel to Belgrade and Pristina next week, joined the European Union in calling for Serbia to stop supporting illegal police and judicial structures set up by ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo.
Around 50,000-60,000 Serbs in a tiny northern part of Kosovo bordering Serbia reject Kosovo's independence and oppose the Pristina government, challenging NATO and EU troops.
Last Thursday, more than 50 people were injured when Kosovo police clashed with a group of visiting Serbs at the border.
"Belgrade must end its support for the illegal parallel security and judicial structures in northern Kosovo and ensure freedom of movement for all," Gordon said.
(Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic, editing by Tim Pearce)