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News 20 Feb 13

Kosovo and Serbia Edge Closer Over North

Kosovo and Serbia are expected to come closer to an understanding on Serbian-financed institutions in northern Kosovo in their talks in Brussels - but a think tank warns that the situation remains volatile.

BIRN Pristina

After a meeting on Tuesday, the Kosovo Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, are continuing talks on the Serb-run north of Kosovo with their mediator, the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Details of Tuesday’s talks remain under wraps but both parties previously said they intended to address the question of the Serb-run northern part of Kosovo.

Kosovo wants Serbia to dismantle its so-called "parallel" structures in north, while Serbia wants to see broader autonomy offered for all Serb-populated areas in Kosovo first.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, the region has been beyond Kosovo's control while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

Kosovo describes the north as an “oasis of organized crime”, accusing Serbia of obstructing the integration of the area.

The International Crisis Group, a think tank, said an agreed solution had yet to emerge and the situation remained volatile.

“The leaders of both states seem more ready than ever to compromise, but the northern Kosovo Serbs are staunchly opposed to integration, low-level violence is increasing, Kosovo nationalists are tense, and a spark could set off inter-communal fighting,” it said.

“Belgrade and Pristina should seize this chance to engage in a substantial discussion on the transformation of existing structures in the North and to offer a self-governing region that fits into Kosovo’s jurisdiction”, the ICG report published on Tuesday added.

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