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news 05 Dec 12

Kosovo, Serbia PMs Agree Border Deal Action

Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci have agreed that four border crossings will start working by the end of the year and agreed to appoint liaison officers.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Following four hours of talks with Kosovo and Serbian leaders on Tuesday, Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy Chief, said that implementation of the border agreement will start on December 10 on two border crossings.

“The two Prime Ministers confirmed the conclusions of the [Integrated Border mManagement] IBM working group, according to which two gates (1 and 3) are now ready and will be operational on 10 December," she said.

"Two more gates (5 and 31) will be ready on December 31,” the statement from Ashton’s office added.

Under the terms of the IBM agreement, Kosovo and Serbian customs and police officers will stand under one roof once the agreement is put into operation.

The statement also said that Dacic and Thaci had agreed to each appoint a liaison officer.

"To begin with, as part of the EU's facilitating role, the EU Delegation in Belgrade and the EU Office in Pristina will provide the liaison office for the liaison officers,” the statement continued.

This was the third meeting between Dacic and Thaci in Brussels.

They first met on October 19 with Ashton, who is now the main mediator in talks between both parties.

Another meeting between Thaci, Dacic and Ashton followed on November 7 but little information was published on the discussion.

EU-mediated talks in Belgium started in March 2011,  three years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

Serbia has vowed never to recognise Kosovo as a state, but says it is open to deals that improve daily lives on both sides of the [from Serbia's point of view unrecognised] border.

So far, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, university diplomas, regional representation and on trade. But not all the deals have been implemented.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Dacic said that Serbia would suspend the border agreement “if the agreed regime is violated in the field.

“A guarantee for the implementation of the agreement is the presence of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” Dacic said.

He also stressed that the agreement on border management, as far as Serbia was concerned, was "status neutral", that is, it will not prejudice Serbia's claim to Kosovo.

Thaci confirmed after the meeting that Pristina would not place any state symbols on the border if Belgrade did the same.

The dialogue is due to continue on January 17.

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