Saturday 24 March 2018

No deal after Serbia-Kosovo talks

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci failed to agree a deal with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic (AP)
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci failed to agree a deal with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic (AP)

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have ended talks without resolving their differences, although a top European Union chief said a deal could be close.

"I said last time that agreement was close, that the differences were narrow, but deep," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who hosted the talks. "I can say with real confidence today that the differences are narrow and very shallow."

At issue is the status of northern Kosovo, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Serbs who reject the authority of the government in Pristina, Kosovo's capital.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci met through much of the day - both in bilateral meetings with Ashton and then face-to-face, with Ashton mediating.

Many ethnic Serbs in Kosovo say they will never accept the jurisdiction of the government in Pristina, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians. The Serbs in northern Kosovo have created so-called parallel institutions, including hospitals and schools, all financed and supported from the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008. While many other countries have recognized it as an independent nation, Serbia has not.

After the meeting, Thaci blamed Serbia for the failure to reach an agreement.

"The proposal by Baroness Ashton has been a clear one, and we have accepted it without any changes," Thaci said. "As it has happened in the previous cases, Serbia today also has refused. There are only a few days left until the 22nd, when the Baroness will present the report. It's important that this agreement is reached."

He was referring to Monday, when Ashton will report on the situation to the EU's General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, which takes decisions regarding countries' candidacies to join the EU.

One condition for Serbia's eventual membership in the European Union is that it "normalise" relations with its neighbours.

Press Association

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