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Serbia, Kosovo Settle Election Dispute

As Kosovo prepares to hold elections, Pristina and Belgrade have defused a dispute that could have derailed their efforts to normalize relations.
Serbia and Kosovo have reached a deal to allow politicians from Belgrade to enter Kosovo to campaign ahead of local elections there next month.

The deal was announced late on October 7 after talks in Brussels between the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo mediated by the European Union.

The agreement comes a week after Serb Prime Minister Ivica Dacic was denied entry to Kosovo by its mainly ethnic Albanian authorities.

Dacic wanted to visit a mainly ethnic Serb enclave in the north to encourage Serbs there to take part in the November 3 municipal election.

Pristina said such a visit would "interfere" with the poll.

"We have agreed to establish a mechanism which would allow Serbian officials to visit Kosovo without problems," Dacic said after the talks with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Following the talks, Thaci told Kosovo TV that "Kosovo will respect the accord on the freedom of movement without discrimination."

"If there are requests from the Serbian side in accordance with the procedure in force, it will be treated in an adequate manner," he said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move rejected by Belgrade. However, Serbia and Kosovo agreed in April to normalize ties in a deal negotiated by the EU.

Belgrade is now expected to soon start accession talks with the EU.

Some 40,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo along the border with Serbia but refuse to recognize Pristina authorities.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters