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Serbian President Makes Rare Visit To Kosovo, Says Finding Deal Difficult

Serbian President Makes Rare Visit To Kosovo
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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said during a trip to northern Kosovo that he will continue talks with Kosovar officials but warned it will be difficult to reach a deal that could normalize relations.

"I will do my best [to reach the agreement], but it is a long road full of thorns and problems ahead," Vucic said on September 8 during a visit to the Gazivoda Lake Dam in Kosovo.

The Serbian leader's two-day visit to Kosovo comes one day after a meeting between Vucic and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci was canceled after Vucic refused to meet.

"I don't think of Thaci as a friend or companion or good interlocutor and I am sure he has the same opinion about me. But we do need to talk and to try and reach the agreement," Vucic said while in Kosovo.

The failed meeting puts further doubt into a possible land swap between the two countries that was floated by both Belgrade and Pristina last month.

Vucic added that Serbia wants to be on friendly terms with Kosovo but doesn't recognize its 2008 declaration of independence.

The dam where Vucic visited is also a source of controversy. Part of the artificial Gazivoda Lake -- which supplies water to some cities in Kosovo, including parts of Pristina, the Kosovar capital -- is located in Serbia, where the source of its water exists.

Belgrade and Pristina disagree over who should control the lake, most of which is located in a northern Kosovo region populated mainly by Serbs.

The land-swap deal would allow Serbia to keep control over northern parts of Kosovo that are mainly populated by Serbs. In return, Belgrade would hand southern municipalities mainly populated by ethnic Albanians to Kosovo.

Although some EU and U.S. officials have said they support the exchange of territories, Germany and many analysts have said it is a bad idea that could renew old ethnic hostilities throughout the Balkans.

During a visit to Macedonia on September 8, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated her position that borders in the Balkans should not be altered. The land swap is also opposed by Kosovo's ruling coalition and the opposition.

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 after NATO bombed to stop the killing and expulsion of Albanians by Serbian forces during a two-year counterinsurgency war. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by some 115 countries, but not by Serbia.

Normalizing bilateral ties is a key condition for both countries to move toward EU membership.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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