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news 13 Feb 13

Kosovo, Serbia Liaison Officers to Start Work

Serbia and Kosovo are due to exchange liaison officers - a step forward in the process of normalising ties - though whether the officers are in any sense 'ambassadors' is seen differently by the two governments.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Liaison officers from Serbia and Kosovo are to start working next week, Balkan Insight has learned from the Serbian government - though the two sides cannot agree on the exact nature of the officers.

Dejan Pavicevic, Belgrade's officer in Pristina, will work in the office of EU Special Representative in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar.

His Kosovo counterpart,  Lulzim Peci, will sit in the building of the EU Delegation in Belgrade.

The agreement to appoint liaison officers was hatched in Brussels on December 4 during the third face-to-face meeting of prime ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci.  

Under the deal, the officers will be in charge of monitoring implementation of key agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina in the Brussels-led dialogue.

EU-led talks between Belgrade and Pristina started in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

So far, the two sides have reached deals on the freedom of movement, university diplomas, representation at regional fora and on trade. Not all the deals have been implemented, however.

Since the agreement to appoint the liaison officers was made, Pristina has repeatedly described the officers as "ambassadors", a term that Belgrade firmly rejects, as Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as a state.

However, the Serbian Foreign Minister, Ivan Mrkic, said that Kosovo was free to refer to the liaison officers as it wished. "They can call him 'ambassador', or, 'representative from outer space,'" he said.

"The truth is that one man will be working at the EU premises in Belgrade, as the contact person for technical agreements," the minister said on Monday.

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