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news 26 Sep 12

Serbia's Nikolic Makes UN Plea For Kosovo Talks

Serbian President tells General Assembly he seeks top-level talks 'in good faith' with Kosovo, while reiterating Belgrade's staunch opposition to Kosovo's independence.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

President Tomislav Nikolic told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that while Serbia would never recognize the independence of Kosovo, Belgrade was "committed to achieving a lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians".

To achieve this aim, Nikolic said that Serbia wanted direct negotiations with Pristina at the highest political level.

"We strongly desire the [EU-led] talks to be continued in good faith and with good intentions," he said, "taking into account, among other things, that it is important to keep the dynamics of the European integration of Serbia and of the Western Balkans as a whole in order to ensure progress and stability of the entire region in the long term."

EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina started in March 2011 aimed at normalising relations between the two countries, both of which share a desire to join the EU one day.

Nikolic seeks organ trade probe

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic also said that Serbia wanted an investigation into the allegations on organ trafficking in Kosovo contained in a report by Dick Marty, rapporteur of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

"We are simply asking for the truth. We are asking to discover the fate of hundreds of Serbs missing from Kosovo and Metohija, who are reasonably believed to be the victims of illicit trafficking in human organs and of other crimes committed in Kosovo and Metohija. In the name of my people, I simply demand justice for the innocent victims," he said.

The two sides have reached deals on trade, freedom of movement, the cadastral registry, mutual recognition of university diplomas, border control management and on the representation of Kosovo at regional meetings.

But not all of the agreements have been implemented.

At the same time, Nikolic repeated that more intensive talks with Kosovo were not a sign that Serbian opposition to Kosovo's independence was weakening.

"May I be clear: Serbia is not ready and cannot, nor will it ever under any circumstances, recognize either explicitly or implicitly the unilaterally declared independence of its southern province of Kosovo and Metohija," Nikolic said.

Vuk Jeremic, a former foreign minister and now president of the 67th UN General Assembly, said that Serbia was committed to a vision of peace based on the rule of international law.

"We have today sent two strong messages to the world - that we are capable of heading the most important international organization [ie the UN] ... and a clear national message about our priorities and what we find acceptable, especially when it comes to Kosovo and Metohija," he said, in reference to his own role, and Nikolic's speech.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has so far been recognised by 89 UN member states, including the US and 22 of the 27 EU countries.

Five EU countries, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyrpus, have refused to recognise Koxovo, as have Serbia's two big-power allies, China and Russia.

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