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Kosovo, Serbian Presidents Hold First Meeting In Brussels


Kosovo's Atifete Jahjaga (left) and Serbia's Tomislav Nikolic are holding their first meeting under EU auspices.
BRUSSELS -- The Serbian and Kosovar presidents have held their first meeting since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The meeting between Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga and her Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, took place in Brussels, under the mediation of the European Union.

The two leaders met separately with EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton before all three held a joint meeting.

The talks aimed to ease tensions stemming from Kosovo's secession from Serbia.

Ashton said after three hours of meetings the two leaders, who as presidents of their respective countries both hold largely ceremonial posts, vowed to continue discussions.

"Both President Nikolic and President Jahjaga have assured me of their continued support and commitment to the dialogue and their respective European agendas," Ashton said.

"I reaffirmed the European perspective for both Serbia and Kosovo and encouraged both sides to continue with the efforts that needed for further progress towards the European Union, along the lines we set out in the December 2012 conclusions of the Council of the European Union."

INTERVIEW: Kosovo President On 'Symbolic But Important' Talks

Ashton said discussions focused on the situation in northern Kosovo, populated mainly by ethnic Serbs. "We are now tackling the issue of northern Kosovo and the coming weeks will be critical," she said.

The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci, respectively, have met several times, most recently in October 2012, for negotiations also sponsored by the EU.

After the meeting, Nikolic urged Kosovo to drop its claim to independence.

"For the start it was good, we have opened the's better to talk longer and to somehow come to a solution but, if Pristina's position stays firm and unchanged that they are an independent state, which, let's say, is not recognized by the UN, then we will hardly reach an agreement."

Jahjaga, however, said Belgrade needed to move on.

"Unfortunately he remained [in the realm of] radical nationalist options that have caused a lot of damage and a lot of consequences, not only to my country but to the entire region," Jahjaga said.

"And I expect from the Serbian people to enjoy the positive changes and the spirit of the cooperation and the spirit of the good neighborhood relations. This age is the age of integration. The time of the hegemony has already passed. It is a time when we have to look on the process of integration towards the EU and the EU-Atlantic processes."

EU Ambitions

Serbia, backed by ally Russia, continues to reject Kosovo's independence.

But Belgrade has agreed to an EU-brokered dialogue with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership, aimed at normalizing relations, in order to advance Serbia's bid to join the EU.

In an interview with RFE/RL ahead of the meeting, Jahjaga expressed hope the meeting would contribute to better relations between Serbs and Kosovars.

Most member states of the EU are among some 100 countries that have recognized Kosovo's independence.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in the 1999 NATO air war.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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