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Serbia Wants Russia To Play Larger Role In Kosovo Talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic during a signing ceremony in Moscow on April 17

Serbia says it wants its ally Russia to play a larger role in EU-mediated talks with Kosovo.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow that "Serbia cannot defend its state interests without the assistance of the Russian Federation."

Dacic said Serbia "would not do anything without consulting Russia," adding that "Russia is our biggest friend."

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.

Lavrov said there were "demands" on Serbia to recognize Kosovo's independence, "primarily on the part of the U.S."

The EU-sponsored talks on normalizing ties have stalled over Pristina's refusal to repeal a 100 percent tariff on imported Serbian goods.

Belgrade wants the tariff lifted before resuming negotiations.

Based on reporting by AP and TASS