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news 02 Feb 17

Kosovo-Serbia Talks Fail to Defuse Tensions

The second round of talks between Kosovo and Serbian politicians in Brussels was reportedly a failure - and the participants notably omitted to give any real details of what was said after the meeting.

Die Morina, Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
The Serbian and Kosovo presidents and prime ministers in Brussels after the meeting. 

Diplomatic sources in Brussels said a meeting between Kosovo's President and Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci and Isa Mustafa, and their Serbian counterparts, Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic, failed to achieve anything.

"The meeting went terribly wrong and had no results," an anonymous diplomatic source told Deutsche Welle.

However, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, was more upbeat, saying she was encouraged by the constructive engagement shown by both sides.

“All participants reconfirmed their full commitment to working together within the [EU-led] Dialogue,” she said.

While the Kosovo delegation did not to comment on the latest talks, opposition politicians repeated that negotiations with Serbia were wrong to begin with and should be stopped.

“These meetings will be terrible, knowing that Serbia is seeking more each time … We believe that neither the process of dialogue ... nor the integration of [Kosovo] Serbs and normalisation of relations with Serbia, can be trusted to criminalised anti-nationalist politicians like Thaci and Mustafa,” Driton Caushi, MP from the opposition Vetevendosje [Self- Determination] party, told BIRN.

Caushi said the worst thing was that Kosovo had expressed a readiness to continue with a process which from its initial phase had been unequal and unjust.

Pristina political analyst Imer Mushkolaj said this period of dialogue had clearly been difficult for both sides.

“Naturally, talks will not be easy, knowing that there are still to discuss hot topics, such as war reparations, missing persons, the return of pension funds and the possibility of Serbia recognising Kosovo's statehood,” Mushkolaj told BIRN.

Mushkolaj said that in future, the talks in Brussels would likely continue on a presidential level, once Vucic became head of state in Serbia.

“The perception is that Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will win the presidential elections in Serbia and then the dialogue will continue between him and Thaci at the level of presidents,” he said.

Serbian President Nikolic, informing the ambassadors of Russia, China and the US in separate meetings on the outcome of talks in Brussels, said the behaviour of the Kosovo delegation had not led in the direction of "reaching an agreement”, Serbia's state news agency Tanjugreported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Vucic called an urgent meeting with mayors of Serb-majority towns in northern Kosovo for Thursday, saying he wanted to calm them down.

"Am I worried? Yes," said Vucic, adding that while not everything depended on Serbia, it was up to Serbia to do everything to preserve peace.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo soared after Serbia tried sending a train to the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica covered in Serbian flags and slogans, and after Kosovo threatened to demolish a wall erected by Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica.

Meanwhile, near the bridge over the Ibar River that ethnically divides the city of Mitrovica, Serbs gathered for a protest on Thursday against the announced demolition of the wall.

Protesters told Tanjug that they were “afraid because of everything that happened in recent days in connection with the demolition of the wall near the bridge”.

Further stoking tensions, the leader of the far-right Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, claimed that Kosovo Albanians were planning an armed raid on the four municipalities in northern Kosovo inhabited by Serbs during or after the visit to Kosovo of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"Serbs in northern Kosovo must be ready for a sudden armed attack and Serbia must do everything in its power to protect them,” Seselj added.

A new study released by the Kosovar Center for Security Studies, “Trends of Perception towards Kosovo’s Policy and Dialogue with Serbia”, showed that many Kosovars had lost patience with the EU-led dialogue.

According to this research, asked whether the dialogue had contributed towards the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, half of the respondents said the dialogue was failing to reach its goal.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia has vowed never to recognize the statehood of its former province. However, as both countries hope to joing the EU, they have both taken part in EU-led talks on "normalizing" their relations.

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