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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Serbia and Kosovo resume long-running talks

The Balkan neighbours last met a year ago as part of decade-long negotiations to resolve disputes still poisoning relations more than 20 years after they separated in war.

AFP , Tuesday 15 Jun 2021
Kosovo Prime Minister
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The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo were in Brussels on Tuesday to resume EU-mediated talks aimed at finding a solution to one of Europe's most intractable territorial disputes.

The Balkan neighbours last met a year ago as part of decade-long negotiations to resolve disputes still poisoning relations more than 20 years after they separated in war.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence after the province broke away in the bloody 1998-99 conflict that was ended only by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops.

The meeting on Tuesday is the first since Kosovo's left-wing reformist prime minister Albin Kurti claimed a landmark win in parliamentary elections in February, pledging to take a new tack in the talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

'This dialogue is not going to be easy,' EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before kicking off bilateral meetings with the two leaders.

"But this process, and this sincere engagement by both sides is necessary for the benefit of the people of Kosovo and Serbia."

Borrell had earlier said that the aim of the fresh round of talks was to sound out Kurti and discuss a "way forward" for negotiations.

'There is a new momentum in Europe about the discussions on the Western Balkans and it is important for the whole region to seize this opportunity,' Borrell said Tuesday.

The EU and United States have been pushing both sides to resume the talks since the change of leadership in Kosovo.

The resumption of talks comes as US President Joe Biden will be a stone's throw away, visiting European Union chiefs for a summit, but there was no sign that he would meet the two leaders.

The US has an outsized role in Kosovo, sometimes called the most pro-American country in the world, after leading the NATO intervention that forced out Serbia.

Kosovo has been recognised by more than 100 countries but Serbia still considers the territory as its southern province, and is supported by Russia and China.

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