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President Vucic Says Serbia Ready For Compromise Over Kosovo

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Wess Mitchell (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on March 14.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on March 14 that his country is ready for a compromise over its dispute with Kosovo, which is key to Serbia's bid to join the European Union.

The EU insists that the normalization of ties between Belgrade and Pristina, which fought a war in the 1990s, is a key condition they both must meet in order to join the bloc.

"For us, the most difficult obstacle on the road to Europe is indeed the situation over Kosovo, and because of that, Serbia is .... ready to talk about possible compromises," Vucic told reporters.

He spoke after meeting with Wess Mitchell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

Mitchell is on a tour of the region that has already taken him to Kosovo and Macedonia.

"We can accept only a compromise ... but not a humiliation of our own people," Vucic said.

Many countries, including the United States, have recognized Kosovo's independence, although other states, including its ally Russia, have not.

The 1998-99 conflict, which claimed some 13,000 lives, ended after NATO launched a bombing campaign to oust Serbian forces from Kosovo.

Belgrade and Pristina recently relaunched a low-level, EU-sponsored dialogue on normalizing relations, which first began in 2011.

However, Vucic and Mitchell expressed deep disagreement over the establishment of Kosovo's armed forces.

Mitchell insisted that Kosovo had a "legitimate right" to form a professional army that would include ethnic Serbs, and said such a force does not present a threat for Serbia.

"Serbia is against it," Vucic said, arguing there was no legally-binding document that would give Pristina the right for such a move.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci has repeatedly said Kosovo would form an army.

With reporting by AP and AFP