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news 07 Feb 13

Kosovo, Serbia Presidents Hail Outcome of Talks

Presidents Atifete Jahjaga and Tomislav Nikolic pledged their commitment to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and their respective European agendas after their historic meeting on Wednesday.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy Chief, said after a three-hour meeting on Wednesday with the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia that the two leaders had vowed to continue their talks and the EU integration process.

"I reaffirmed the European perspective of both Serbia and Kosovo and encouraged both sides to continue the efforts that are needed for further progress towards the European Union," Ashton said after the meeting.

It was the first time that the Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia had sat down at the same table since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

The joint meeting was seen as historic, given that Serbia bitterly opposes Kosovo's independence, and had previously boycotted any events where Kosovo officials were represented under the name of "Kosovo".

The two countries started the EU-led talks in March 2011 and have reached several agreements so far.

In October, the talks were raised to a higher level when the Kosovo and Serbia Prime Ministers, Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic, met in Brussels for the first time.

Nikolic expressed optimism after the meeting about the continuation of the talks, noting that the process was positive for Serbia in the light of its hopes of EU integration.

“EU membership is our primary goal, and we will do all that a country and a nation with their pride can do,” Nikolic said.   

However, he noted that he had told Jahjaga that the dialogue would not move forward towards a lasting solution if she continued to insist that Kosovo was an independent state. [Serbia insists that Kosovo remains a province of Serbia.]

Jahjaga, meanwhile, told the Kosovo media that the meeting had been "constructive, and strong support was given to the normalisation of the two countries' relations, which constitutes an important contribution to peace and stability".

When asked who was "the biggest winner in the meeting with Nikolić", Jahjaga said that both sides had gained something.

"Kosovo and Serbia are the winners, as well as peace and stability, both in the two countries and in the wider region," she said.

European officials welcomed Wednesday's meeting, saying it would help improve the atmosphere and build trust between Belgrade and Pristina.

Jelko Kacin, the European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, said the meeting had elevated the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue to the highest possible level and would strengthen trust on all sides.

"I hope that their next meeting will be in the region, and then in Belgrade or Pristina," Kacin said on Wednesday.

The European Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, told Deutsche Welle: "Every step which contributes to improving the overall atmosphere and relations between the two sides is welcome and we support it."

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