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news 11 Jun 15

Kosovo No State, Serbian President Tells Jahjaga

Serbia's President has told his Kosovo counterpart that she is not the head of a state - drawing a testy response from Pristina that bodes ill for the success of EU-led talks between them.

Una Hajdari, Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
Tomislav Nikolic. | Photo by Beta

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has told the President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, that she should not consider herself a state president since Kosovo "will never be a state", according to well founded reports in the Belgrade media.

The Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti reported on June 9 that Nikolic had told Jahjaga that the Kosovo Albanians had not fulfilled their agreements with Serbia and should change that as soon as possible. They should also not "imagine they have some kind of a state, which is not recognized by the half of the world", he added

The row reportedly took place during a regional meeting of leaders in Montenegro on June 8.

An advisor to the Serbian President, Ivan Mrkic, confirmed the incident, telling the daily paper on June 9 that Nikolic had addressed the Kosovo President over clashes that took place in Macedonia in May when armed Kosovo Albanians engaged in shootouts with the Macedonian police in the town of Kumanovo.

“The President told her that she should have at least said ‘sorry’ because Albanian terrorists brutally killed police officers in Kumanovo, and then they held a funeral in Pristina [for the terrorists], practically with state honours,” Mrkic said.

The Kosovo President's office reacted to Nikolic's statement on June 10, stating that Nikolic appeared frustrated that Kosovo now “has equal treatment at all regional meetings.

“While he spoke about Kosovo as a non-existent state…President Jahjaga was sitting at the same table with other colleagues from the region and Austrian President Heinz Fischer... to discuss regional cooperation and strategic plans,” Jahjaga’s office stated.

Pristina analyst Belul Beqaj said the exchange of barbs could “complicate the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia” led by the EU.

"Situations like this complicate the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia because they create animosities amongst the population," Beqaj told BIRN.

He said President Nikolic was “playing the role of guardian of Serbian nationalism before the Albanians, representing all those who continue to have problems with Kosovo's [independent] status.

"Statements like these will never stop coming from either side. The worrying element is that there still exist spheres of the population in Kosovo and Serbia who need to be fed by this rhetoric. As long as they exist, then there is little point in organizing regional meetings. Citizens will only be happy when they hear inflammatory rhetoric," he added.

Nikolic recently declared he had launched a new "platform" for Serbia's relations with Kosovo, although the document has not been publicly released.

According to the Serbian press, Nikolic proposes broad autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia - a position completely at variance with the position of the Kosovo government and most EU states, which recognised Kosovo years ago.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the government would discuss the document but admitted that Serbia could face the rift with Western countries that had recognized Kosovo as a state over the document.

The EU is keen for Serbia to move forward in "normalising" relations with Kosovo, rather than going back over the old issue of its independence in 2008.

European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister said in Belgrade on June 8 that the next round of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in Brussels on June 23 would be crucial for both sides as regards their EU integration process.

"Both Belgrade and Pristina should take additional steps toward the normalization of ties for to demonstrate commitment and credibility," McAllister said.

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