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Interview: Kosovo President On 'Symbolic But Important' Talks With Serbian Counterpart


Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga (left) and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic will meet in Brussels this week, the first time the talks will be held at such a high level.

Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga (left) and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic will meet in Brussels this week, the first time the talks will be held at such a high level.

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia are due to meet in Brussels on February 6 in what will be the first such high-level meeting since Pristina declared independence from Serbia nearly five years ago.

Kosovo's president, Atifete Jahjaga, spoke to Arbana Vidishiqi of RFE/RL's Balkan Service on the phone from Brussels about her expectations.

RFE/RL: Madam president, is your meeting with your Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, a symbolic one, or can it produce concrete results?

Atifete Jahjaga:
This meeting is symbolic, but also an important one, because this is a first meeting between the presidents of the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia, which is considered a success for normalization and advancement of relations of two sovereign and independent countries. We will support the ongoing EU-facilitated dialogue led by the prime ministers of our countries, a process that is strongly supported by the United States.

RFE/RL: What are the topics of discussion in this meeting; what issues are going to be raised?

Jahjaga:
We will talk, in principle, about the normalization of the relationship between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia, about the importance of continuing the dialogue, and reaching agreements regarding all important issues and their exact implementation. This is for the good of all the citizens of the two countries and also contributes to the good neighborly relationship as well as peace and stability in the region.

RFE/RL: Up to now there have been several agreements reached through this dialogue. What is the importance of this meeting at the presidential level, if it is not the end of the whole process?

Jahjaga:
The main goal of this meeting is to find solutions for all the issues, with full consent, by respecting European norms and standards as well as international conventions. Taking into consideration our [war] past and relations between Kosovo and Serbia, [the international community] utterly expects us to entirely normalize our relations. The presidents' meeting has this aim in particular, whereas the government of Kosovo is authorized by parliament to lead the dialogue process.

RFE/RL: To what extent can one final agreement between the two sides end problems between the two countries, and will the two of you -- the presidents -- sign such an agreement?

Jahjaga:
A comprehensive agreement could open the path of signing other bilateral agreements. This is a regular intergovernmental norm with all states that have diplomatic relations. The issue of signing and ratification is regulated by the constitution itself.

RFE/RL: Madam president, who benefits more from this dialogue with President Nikolic: Serbia, because of its EU candidacy, or Kosovo, because of something else?

Jahjaga:
This is not a dialogue, but an official meeting of the presidents of two independent, neighboring countries. Both of these countries can help each other on their road to EU integration. Both countries -- and the entire region -- will benefit from these meetings because, in the end, respecting the reality and recognizing Kosovo's independence brings stability.

RFE/RL: You support the dialogue itself, but how much would you support the solutions that come out of it, especially a possible compromise regarding the [majority Serb-populated] northern part of Kosovo?

Jahjaga:
As a president of this country I support the entire process of dialogue and agreements achieved. Our position is a unique one and we -- the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo -- have no difference on our stance regarding this issue. You have seen that up to this point there were no compromises to the detriment of the interests of our country and our citizens. All the agreements are in accordance with the constitution and laws of the Republic of Kosovo.

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