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EU: Serbia-Kosovo Talks 'Back On Track' After Virtual Meeting Between Leaders

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Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (combo photo)

The European Union said long-stalled talks between Serbia and Kosovo were “back on track” after a video meeting between the two countries’ leaders.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a virtual meeting mediated by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

The video summit was aimed at setting up the first face-to-face meeting of the Balkan leaders since November 2018 under an EU-backed dialogue process.

EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak, who also took part in the meeting, said Vucic and Hoti were scheduled to meet in Brussels on July 16.

“The EU-facilitated dialogue on [a] comprehensive normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is back on track after 20 months,” said Lajcak after the end of the virtual meeting.

“We agreed on the main elements of the process. We also agreed on the agenda of our next meeting that will take place this coming Thursday, in Brussels, in person. I want to thank our partners for their constructive engagement today,” Lajcak said.

On July 10, the two Balkan nations agreed to resume talks after a video summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In those talks, Vucic and Hoti held firm to their positions. Vucic said the EU-backed process will be “meaningless” if they focus on whether Belgrade should recognize Kosovo’s independence. Hoti said “mutual recognition between the two countries is the only way to normalize relations.”

"The talks will require political courage from both sides," Borrell said in a statement earlier. "It has never been easy to find solutions to problems that lasted for so long and were so painful."

In a joint statement after the July 10 talks, France and Germany said that Vucic and Hoti agreed to resume the dialogue and said the two agreed to “deepen cooperation” in various areas to help rebuild trust.

The statement noted that “the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is extremely important for security and stability in the region and, beyond that, of great significance for the EU membership prospects of both countries."

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade. Five of the EU’s 27 countries – Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia, and Spain – also don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence.

EU-mediated negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade broke down in 2018 over reports of a proposed land swap and after Kosovo imposed a 100-percent tax on Serbian imports.

Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the EU, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.

The new push comes after prosecutors in The Hague charged Kosovar President Hashim Thaci with war crimes, leading to the postponement of a planned June 27 White House summit between Thaci and his Serbian counterpart.

With reporting by AP
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