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Kosovar Parliament Ratifies Serbia Deal As Protesters Clash With Police

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Riot police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and tried to push it back to clear the entrance to parliament.

Riot police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and tried to push it back to clear the entrance to parliament.

PRISTINA -- Kosovo's parliament has overwhelmingly ratified an EU-brokered agreement aimed at normalizing ties with Serbia.

Lawmakers voted 84-3 in favor of the agreement, which was reached in April.

A few hundred supporters of a radical nationalist group earlier on June 27 clashed with police as they attempted to prevent lawmakers from entering the building. Protesters threw cans of paint at the police.

Riot police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and tried to push it back to clear the entrance to parliament.

Several dozen protesters were detained.

The protest was staged by Self-Determination, a hard-line opposition party that claims the agreement would create an autonomous Serb region within Kosovo and undermine Kosovo's sovereignty.

The U.S. Embassy deplored the "use of violent tactics in obstructing the democratic process." It said protesters had tried to stop U.S. Ambassador Tracey Jacobson from entering parliament, but police and bodyguards eventually escorted her inside.

Self-Determination lawmakers later tried to prevent the agreement from being put to a vote. Security intervened and removed opposition lawmakers who scuffled with the speaker of the parliament.

The agreement to normalize ties was reached in April after lengthy talks between the Serbian and the Kosovar prime ministers, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci, mediated by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Thaci told lawmakers on June 27 that achieving normal relations with Serbia would be difficult and complicated but said he would pursue talks with Belgrade.

Serbia refuses to recognize the independence which majority ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared in 2008.

The agreement is key to Serbia's and Kosovo's progress toward eventual EU membership.

On June 28, EU leaders are expected to formally approve the start of EU membership talks with Serbia.

The EU is also expected to approve the start of talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo.

With reporting by Reuters
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