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Kosovar President Urges Serbia To Normalize Relations

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci
Kosovar President Hashim Thaci

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci has called on neighboring Serbia to recognize his country’s independence and complete a process of normalizing relations "based on the values of the European perspective of the two countries."

Thaci spoke to RFE/RL’s Balkan Service on January 23, the day before a new round of talks between Kosovo and Serbia is scheduled to open in Brussels.

The presidents of both countries are expected to attend the opening of the Brussels meeting. The last round of the talks was held more than one year ago.

"It is time to open the last chapter in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, the chapter of the normalization of bilateral relations, including normalization in the fields of politics, security, economics, and regional and Euro-Atlantic integration," Thaci said.

Speaking to RFE/RL in Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, called for "increased commitment and engagement" by both sides in the upcoming talks.

"Progress in the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is of paramount importance," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said. "We have said that very clearly -- that goes for both sides, for the region, and for the European Union as such."

Kosovo, supported by the United States and other Western countries, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade still considers it part of its territory. While 114 countries recognize Kosovo's independence, Serbia and Russia do not.

Tensions between the two countries were aggravated earlier this month after Belgrade sent a train toward an ethnic-Serbian-dominated enclave in northern Kosovo with the slogan "Kosovo is Serbia" emblazoned on the side.

The train did not cross into Kosovo, but Thaci accused Belgrade of plotting to take control of the enclave using the "Crimea model," a reference to Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian region.

Both Serbia and Kosovo are actively pursuing membership in the European Union.

With reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak