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news 11 Jul 12

Serbia’s Nikolic Gives Some Ground on Kosovo

Serbian President says he doesn’t expect to be ‘President in Pristina’ – but authorities in Pristina should not expect to regain control of the Serb-run north of Kosovo either.

B92, Tanjug Belgrade

Serbia’s new President, Tomislav Nikolic, on Tuesday conceded that Serbia was unlikely to rule the mainly Albanian ex-province of Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008 – adding that Kosovo should not expect to rule Kosovo’s northern Serb-run corner.

“I don’t think I will ever be President in [the Kosovo capital of] Pristina, but the President of the interim authorities in Pristina [i.e. the leader of Kosovo] will also never be president in Mitrovica,” he said, referring to the main town in the Serb-majority north.

According to Nikolic, who spoke as he toured a farm in the village of Melenci, Serbia needs to reach a consensus on “what Kosovo is” and how it should treat it.

He said that Serbia needed a united stance towards Kosovo and its future borders, and towards how Serbia should react if the Kosovo authorities attempt to exercise their authority in the north.

Nikolic added that the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, the Serb enclaves in the south and the four Serb municipalities in the north all need to be determined - as does Serbia's stance towards Kosovo’s participation in international conferences and the conditions under which Serbia and Kosovo would take part.

Serbia has until now refused to take part in any regional meetings where Kosovo is represented as an independent state, though the two sides have in theory reached a compromise deal on the issue.

“The government and the opposition need to take a united stand because this is the only way we can be strong,” he said.

Asked whether the international community was pushing Serbia to accept Kosovo as an independent state, Nikolic said that the expectation that Serbia should establish “good relations with its neighboring state of Kosovo was already in the air”.

Those that have recognized Kosovo’s independence want it to be full independence, noted Nikolic. “We who do not accept this, and who have been elected by the people, want this to never happen,” he added.

But, “If we remain miles apart, the talks will be fruitless,” the President continued, adding it was important for the two sides to sit down and try to bring their positions closer.

New Serbia leader Velimir Ilic, whose party ran in the May elections with Nikolić's Progressives, was then asked whether the President’s statements “spoke about a possible partition of Kosovo”.

Ilic responded obliquely, saying only that “perhaps the President knows something others do not”.

However, referring to EU-led talks between Kosovo and Serbia, which started under the last government, he added that “everything that the previous government signed related to Kosovo must be accepted”.

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