Ashton to meet Kosovo and Serbia leaders

The Kosovo assembly on Thursday under the siege of police force threw its support behind the government, authorizing it to lead talks with Serbia on normalizing relations. Hashim Thaçi...

The Kosovo assembly on Thursday under the siege of police force threw its support behind the government, authorizing it to lead talks with Serbia on normalizing relations.
Hashim Thaçi (L) and Catherine Ashton (R)
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to meet with the prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia on Friday in a bid to launch talks to normalise strained relations between the two countries.
Ashton will meet separately in Brussels with Ivica Dacic of Serbia and Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo, her office said in a Thursday’s statement. “The purpose of these meetings is to discuss the way forward in the EU-facilitated dialogue,” it added.
The talks have yielded several agreements aimed at easing daily headaches for citizens on both sides, such as the mutual recognition of university degrees.
Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaçi on Thursday’s Kosovo’s assembly session sought to ensure the backing of a majority in assembly before resuming the sensitive EU-mediated talks aimed at improving ties with the territory’s former ruler.
“The assembly of the republic of Kosovo supports the process on the normalization of relations between two independent and sovereign states, Kosovo and Serbia, in the interest of solving the problems between the two states, improving the life of the citizens and advancing the European agenda for both states and the region,” the resolution stated.
Assembly “authorizes the government to lead” the EU-facilitated dialogue which is also supported by the United States. Under heavy police presence Kosovo Assembly adopted the resolution on relations with the Republic of Serbia.

The ruling PDK party proposed the resolution. Thursday’s debate in Kosovo assembly marked the biggest fierce of communication between the position, which had proposed the resolution, and the opposition, which called the resolution as ‘Treason of Kosovo’.

Observers said the move was also calculated to show the international community that Kosovo is taking a lead in the dialogue, which Brussels says is as a key factor for Pristina’s European integration.
“Kosovo is free and independent but independence alone is not enough, we have to integrate into the EU and NATO,” Thaçi told the assembly before the vote. “Normalization of relations and being good neighbors are the condition” for this integration, he stressed.
Two lawmakers from the nationalist Self-determination party, the third biggest party in assembly which opposes any negotiations with Belgrade, unfurled a banner during the debate which read ‘Resolution = submission to Serbia’.
The resolution, adopted with 68 votes in the 120-seat assembly, reaffirms Pristina’s refusal to negotiate about the status of Kosovo, which unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008.
Serbia firmly rejects the independence of its ‘breakaway southern province’ and wants its future status on the agenda of talks. Some 90 states including 22 of the EU’s 27 members and the United States recognize Kosovo’s independence.
The dialogue started in March 11 under strong international pressure and has yielded several agreements aimed at making the daily lives of Kosovo’s two million inhabitants, mainly ethnic Albanians with a significant Kosovo Serb minority, easier.
The talks were halted after Serbia held elections in May and Brussels has been stepping up the pressure to re-launch the dialogue.
Serbia is a candidate member of the 17-nation bloc but the EU has made it clear also to Belgrade that it must re-enter the talks and show concrete results before Brussels can agree to start accession talks.

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