The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo were back around the negotiating table on Tuesday almost a year after talks broke down between the two sides.
Serbia has never recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia after the province broke away in the wake of a bloody conflict that took place over two decades ago.
The ensuing feud between the pair led to the EU’s seeking a truce, instigating talks that first began in 2011.
And Tuesday’s proceedings got off to an inauspicious start. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic hit out at his opposite number — Kosovo’s recently installed Prime Minister Albin Kurti — as talks in Brussels failed to make progress towards a solution to one of Europe’s most intractable territorial disputes.
Vucic alleged that Kurti had “demanded” Serbian recognition of Kosovo. The Serbian president also said Kurti refused to discuss a 2013 deal to create ten Serb-majority “municipalities” in Kosovo.
“I’ve never attended this kind of a meeting in my life. Complete lack of responsibility,” Vucic said. “The man [Kurti] came to ask me: When are you going to recognize independent Kosovo? I told him: ‘Never.’ And he exploded.”
Vucic said Kurti “exploded” after the Serbian president said he would “never” recognize Kosovo’s independence
Kurti, however, described the talks as “constructive.”
“We will take part in this process which is difficult,” he told the media. “The Serbian side talked about old proposals. We brought four new proposals which were refused by the Serbian side.”
EU remains hopeful
EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak admitted: “It was not an easy meeting, but it was important that it happened. Both leaders had a very open and frank exchange on what they each want from the dialogue.”
“What is important for the European Union is that both leaders confirmed that there is no other way forward but to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia.”
Both sides have been told that they cannot hope to move forward in their efforts to join the EU without resolving the rift.
Despite the tough atmosphere, both sides agreed to continue with the talks and Lajcak said a new round would take place “before the end of July.”
Though Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by the United States and many EU nations, with noteworthy exceptions, Belgrade has maintained the backing of Russia and China in its bid to retain claim on the territory.
jsi/msh (AP, AFP)