Serbia, Kosovo resume ‘very difficult’ talks on normalising ties

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The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo at the beginning of the weekend held their first talks in 18 months on resolving one of Europe’s most intractable territorial disputes, agreeing to a face-to-face meeting next week on the “very difficult” process.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence after the province broke away in the bloody 1998-99 war that was ended only by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a video summit that was also joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

These discussions will be followed by more online talks on Sunday between Hoti and Vucic as well as EU officials, and then their meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Macron and Merkel said in a joint statement after the talks.

They encouraged Hoti and Vucic to “achieve substantial progress in the negotiations in the coming months,” the statement said.

“There are very difficult perspectives for the outcome of this dialogue, but there is a commitment by everyone to proceed step by step,” added a French presidential official, who asked not to be named.

Both Kosovo and Serbia have been facing mounting pressure from the West to resolve the impasse, which is seen as crucial to either side joining the EU.

“The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is essential for the security and stability of the region and of great importance if the two countries are to join the EU,” the statement by the French and German leaders said.

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo will hold talks in Brussels on 12 July, the first meeting between the two in long-stalled European Union-supervised negotiations aimed at normalizing relations, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said.

Read more via France 24/AFP