Serbia, Kosovo premiers to meet for peace bid

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. Photo / AP
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. Photo / AP

The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo were meeting Wednesday (local time) for only the second time since the breakaway province declared independence in an EU-brokered bid to defuse tension in the Western Balkans.

EU sources said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci would hold talks over dinner, their second encounter since a ground-breaking October 19 tete-a-tete brokered by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Ashton met Dacic ahead of the working dinner, which she was also attending, before holding a bilateral with Thaci.

The EU is offering to draw both sides closer to the 27-nation bloc on condition they cooperate on issues such as security and trade in order to reduce tensions and resolve daily headaches caused by Belgrade's refusal to recognise Pristina's unilateral proclamation in 2008.

An EU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that the two premiers might make progress in implementing a deal agreed last December by more junior negotiators on jointly managing border crossings in northern Kosovo.

"The main business will be to define the issues to examine in forthcoming talks," the source added.

The EU-brokered talks, which kicked in March 2011 but paused after Serbia's elections in May, have produced several agreements, including the mutual recognition of university degrees and the return of property records.

Thaci said this week that "what should be achieved first is the implementation of technical agreements" reached since the launch of the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue.

Dacic said he expected the meeting to be "held in a friendly atmosphere and a dialogue to be led in a positive direction."

Speaking to their electorates, both leaders pledged however not to budge on their political positions.

Serbia rejects Kosovo's proclamation of independence, which is recognised by some 90 states including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

Serbia is an EU candidate member and Kosovo hopes to formalise ties, but Brussels has made clear to both that they must pursue dialogue with each other and produce concrete results.

- AFP

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