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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

EU says no breakthrough in Serbia, Kosovo talks

EU foreign policy chief said she held several rounds of talks but that "difficulties remain."

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci talks to the press.  AFP
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci talks to the press.  AFP

Talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo yielded no results on Friday as the European Union’s top diplomat concluded separate talks aimed at normalizing their strained relations.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after meetings with Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci in Brussels that she held several rounds of talks but that "difficulties remain."

Mr Vucic cancelled a meeting with his Kosovo counterpart in an unexpected escalation of tension with its neighbor as his premier warned the international community not to "test our patience."

Mr Vucic scratched a planned meeting with Hashim Thaci in Brussels on Friday after meeting European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Mr Vucic had suggested the meeting could lead to progress in stalled efforts to normalize ties after the neighbors’ split after a 1998-1999 war, possibly even including an agreement to swap territory.

Mogherini said she would chair further high-level talks in Brussels between the sides later this month. She says she hopes both leaders will continue discussions and "reach in the coming months a legally binding agreement on comprehensive normalisation of relations, in line with international law."

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But a top Serbian negotiator at European Union-brokered negotiations on normalizing relations with Kosovo says the two nations' presidents won't meet s expected.

Serbian government official Marko Djuric said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic "will not talk today with the representatives of Pristina."

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008. Belgrade does not recognize its independence.

Mr Djuric added that "there are not minimum conditions to talk to the representatives of Pristina today." Mr Djuric cited "all the threats and deceits" from Kosovo that he says have made the meeting impossible.

Mr Vucic has met with the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is the mediator in the talks that are aimed at finding a solution to the dispute stemming from the 1990s conflict.

Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, Serbia has refused to acknowledge its neighbor and has relied on help from its allies Russia and China to block its recognition at the United Nations.

The idea of a "land swap" between Serbia and Kosovo to settle their long-running dispute once and for all has stirred passions ahead of a new round of talks between former war foes.

The notion would likely see a part of southern Serbia centered on the ethnic Albanian-dominated city of Presevo transferred to Kosovo, while the Serb-dominated northern part of Kosovo, around Mitrovica, would become part of Serbia.

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