Serbia's new Prime Minister Ivica Dacic says his government is committed to a dialogue with Kosovo's leadership and to pursuing European Union membership.
"We are ready to continue the [Belgrade-Pristina] dialogue not only when it comes to technical issues but also political issues," Dacic said in Brussels on September 4 after talks with EU President Herman Van Rompuy. "We are ready to increase the level of participation in the dialogue to a political level."
Van Rompuy urged Dacic "to constructively engage in the EU-facilitated dialogue" with Kosovo, the former Serbian territory now recognized as independent by much of the world, including the United States and most EU members.
Serbian leaders have vowed that Belgrade will never recognize the 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership.
However, the Serbian government and Kosovo officials agreed on September 2 that Kosovo may take part in international conferences if an asterisk appears on its nameplate, and a footnote in documents explains its still unresolved diplomatic status.
Previously, Serbia had boycotted events where Kosovo's leadership was represented.
Van Rompuy welcomed Belgrade's move, which he said would bring Serbia closer to starting official EU accession talks:
"A visible and sustainable improvement of [Serbia's] relations with Kosovo remains a key requirement for the next step, the start of the EU accession negotiations," Van Rompuy said. "And I'm pleased that the Serbian government has issued a decision that will now allow for an effective and inclusive cooperation through the region."
But the EU president added that "the work does not end here," and urged both sides to push ahead in implementing deals agreed during months of EU-sponsored talks.
One such deal was agreed in March, allowing Kosovo "to participate and sign new agreements on its own account and to speak for itself at all regional meetings."
The EU granted Serbia membership candidate status in March, before elections in May that saw the ouster of pro-Western president Boris Tadic.
Serbia's new coalition government consists of President Tomislav Nikolic's nationalist Serbian Progressive Party and Dacic's Socialists, the party of late strongman ruler Slobodan Milosevic.
Dacic at one time worked as a spokesman for Milosevic.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and B92