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news 19 Oct 12

Dacic and Thaci Meet in Brussels, Make History

For the first time since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, leaders of Kosovo and Serbia have sat down at the same table.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Serbia's Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, sat down at the same table with his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, in Belgium on Friday - in spite of the fact that Serbia has an arrest warrant out for the Kosovo leader.

The historic meeting took place in Brussels on Friday with the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. Before the joint meeting, the two Balkan officials met Ashton separately.

Ashton issued a statement saying the topic of the meeting was the continuation of EU-mediated Serbia-Kosovo talks, which started in March 2011.

"We agreed to continue the dialogue on normalisation of relations between the two sides and both are committed to working together," the statement reads.

According to the statement, the joint meeting took place in a good and constructive atmosphere. "We will meet again soon," the statement added.

Dacic told the Serbian media after the meeting that Serbia had not changed its position on never recognising Kosovo's independence.

But, he added: "I think it's time for a historic agreement, and we are ready for final status talks."

The joint meeting came as surprise, as Serbia bitterly opposes Kosovo's independence, proclaimed in 2008, and has since boycotted any events where Kosovo officials represented themselves under the name of "Kosovo".

Paradoxically, the first top Serbian official to meet Thaci was the former right-hand man of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who fought a war with NATO to keep the mainly Albanian then province of Kosovo inside Serbia.

In Serbia, the Kosovo leader was sentenced to ten years in prison for terrorism.

In July, Thaci and Boris Tadic, the former Serbian President, shook hands at a Croatian summit in Dubrovnik.

At the time, Dacic was critical of the move, noting that Thaci was suspected in Serbia of links to organ trafficking. "Boris Tadic’s move is an absolute enigma to me,” Dacic said back then.

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