UPDATE 1-Germany calls on Serbia, Kosovo to strive to normalise relations

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(Adds Vucic quotes, background)

BERLIN/BELGRADE, April 23 (Reuters) - Germany called for greater efforts by Serbia and Kosovo in talks about a normalisation of their relationship, more than 20 years after Belgrade lost control of its former southern province.

Kosovo eventually declared independence from neighbouring Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade, backed by Russia, China, and some European Union member states, refuses to recognise it.

"It is the right time to continue the normalisation process, and to achieve results," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a live-streamed news briefing after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Friday.

"It is important not to hold this dialogue just for dialogue's sake, there must be results. Germany stands ready to help in this respect," Mass added.

Both Kosovo and Serbia, which is a candidate for EU membership, must improve mutual relations if they want to join the bloc.

Belgrade lost control over Kosovo, Serbia's former southern province in 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign forced it to halt a bloody counterinsurgency war against Albanians there.

"Serbia is not looking for an apologetic reason not to reach a compromise (with Kosovo), it believes that a frozen conflict is not the best solution, because someone can always unfreeze it," Vucic said.

Former nationalist firebrand Vucic said that an improvement in relations with Albania was also needed for a secure future, "because it is certain that Serbs and Albanians will be the two largest nations (in the region) within the next 100 years."

"The essence of progress is in peace," he said. (Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Alexander Smith)