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EU-mediated talks fail to quell Kosovo-Serbia standoff

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EU-mediated “crisis management talks” Thursday between Serbia and Kosovo failed to contain rising tensions between its Balkan neighbours, but further dialogue will take place, the bloc’s diplomatic leader said.

“Unfortunately, we have not reached an agreement today… But it is not the end of the story,” said EU High Representative Josep Borrell after the talks in Brussels.

“The discussion will resume in the coming days… I’m not giving up,” he said.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic took part in talks chaired by Borrell aimed at defusing the enmity that has led to violent incidents in northern Kosovo in recent weeks.

As a sign of the seriousness of the deadlock, a Vucic aide told journalists in Brussels that the Serbian president would return to Belgrade on Friday to give “what will be one of his most important speeches” on Kosovo.

Serbian state media said Vucic would hold an “emergency meeting” in Belgrade on Sunday with leaders of Kosovo’s Serb minority.

The assistant, Peter Petkovic, who is responsible for Serbia’s relations with Kosovo, did not say which line Vucic would choose.

But he said the president stayed in Brussels on Thursday night “in the hope that another compromise would be reached”.

Borrell did not elaborate on what obstacles stood in the way of the talks.

But he said the discussion was “not a normal meeting” and expressed concern about “rising tensions in northern Kosovo”.

“It was a crisis management meeting,” he said. “The purpose of this meeting was to calm the situation on the ground.”

Worsening Problems

Two aggravating issues between Serbia and Kosovo that were mentioned were vehicle registration plates that Pristina imposes throughout Kosovo, including on the Serb minority living in the north, and entry-exit documents required at the border between neighbors.

“The international community does not want to see any new tensions in the near future and the parties will be fully responsible for any escalation on the ground,” Borrell warned.

Serbia deeply dislikes Kosovo’s breakaway status.

The ethnic Albanian majority of the area fought against Serb forces in 1999 with support from NATO warplanes. In 2008 it declared independence, which has been recognized by most but not all EU Member States.

New violence flared up in northern Kosovo in late July, prompting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to say on Wednesday that the 3,700 NATO peacekeepers deployed in Kosovo “will take whatever measures are necessary to maintain a safe environment and freedom of movement.” for all people.” of Kosovo”.

He made the statement after receiving Vucic and Kurti separately for talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Vucic and Kurti also met on Wednesday with a visit to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar in Brussels.

Escobar, who manages US policy for the Western Balkans, traveled to Brussels for the previous round of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.


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