WASHINGTON -- Kosovo's president said that Russia had promised to support efforts by Belgrade and Pristina to reconcile, a positive sign for the two Balkan nations estranged since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
In a speech in Washington on February 5, Hashim Thaci said that he had spoken to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in November in Paris, on the sidelines of commemorations for the end of World War I.
"I asked him very directly: What would Russia's reaction be if Kosovo and Serbia reach an agreement? His reply was that he will support it," Thaci said at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"His reply was that we cannot be greater Serbs than the Serbs. I cannot say I was impressed, but I would really welcome if he keeps his word," he said.
Russia has strong cultural and political ties to Serbia, which has campaigned to keep Kosovo out of the United Nations since it declared independence in 2008.
Kosovo, whose population is mostly ethnic Albanian, broke away from Serbia after a 1998-99 war and bombing campaign by NATO.
Thaci also said that U.S. support for a comprehensive agreement is vital.
"We will not accept an agreement that is not acceptable to Washington," he said.
"It will not be an easy process to reach an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but it is the only way forward to avoid turning back into tensions and conflicts," he said.
Thaci also faces opposition at home, with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rejecting a proposal to swap territory with Serbia.