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Thaci Says Kosovo-Serbia Border Won't Be Redrawn Along Ethnic Lines

Federica Mogherini (center), Hashim Thaci (right), and Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on November 8
Federica Mogherini (center), Hashim Thaci (right), and Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on November 8

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has said that any revised border with Serbia that comes out of the two neighbors' normalization talks will not be drawn along ethnic lines.

"We will work together to define the borders, just like we did with Macedonia and Montenegro, but there will be no borders based on ethnic lines," he said In an interview with AFP published on November 9.

"Kosovo will stay multiethnic, Serbia as well, no population displaced. The region will be safer thanks to this agreement," Thaci said one day after a short, tense meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, in Brussels that was hosted by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The two Balkan countries are both pursuing normalization in hopes of furthering their bids to join the European Union, and Mogherini has made clear that they must reach a binding agreement on sensitive issues such as their common border and whether Serbia will recognize Kosovo's independence, which it declared 10 years ago.

This summer, Thaci and Vucic both raised the possibility of redrawing their border in comments that alarmed some observers who feared it might revive the ethnic divisions that fed the 1990s Balkans war.

Thaci's comments to AFP suggest that whatever changes in the border the two are contemplating would not include a simple swap of ethnic territories, with Albanian-majority Kosovo getting Albanian-dominated areas of Serbia in exchange for Serbia gaining Serb-dominated areas of Kosovo.

While the two countries' normalization talks have been marked by tensions and fits and starts, Thaci remained cautiously optimistic in his interview with AFP.

"Last evening's meeting was difficult but important for the final phase of the agreement for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia," he said. "I think it is the right momentum and the right leadership to reach an agreement."

Thaci told AFP his agreement with Serbia would meet many goals Kosovo has sought, among them "mutual recognition of Kosovo and Serbia, a legally binding agreement, an opportunity for Kosovo to join the UN because Russia will be lifting its veto at the Security Council."

Serbia has never recognized the independence of its former province although more than 110 other nations have done so. Serbian ally Russia has for years blocked Kosovo's recognition at the UN.

Kosovo's recent decision to create its own army has provoked anger from its own ethnic Serb minority as well as from Serbia.

NATO, which currently leads the KFOR military force that ensures Kosovo's security, has also expressed reservations.

"I am the president of a sovereign country," Thaci told AFP. "The armed forces of Kosovo will be created. This is a done deal... Nobody in Serbia can put a veto on this, whether they like it or not."

"It is a new army, peaceful, multiethnic, with over 10 percent minority representation," he said.

"Everything we'll do will be constitutional and legal," he told AFP. "This will be a gradual process, coordinated with our partners in NATO and the U.S."

With reporting by AFP
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