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news 14 Feb 13

Serbia President and Patriarch Agree Line on Kosovo

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church and President Tomislav Nikolic have urged international organisations in Kosovo to do more to guard Serbian religious sites and protect the Serbian community there.

The Serbian President, Tomislav Nikolic, and Patriarch Irinej, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, have agreed that international organizations in Kosovo are obliged to protect the Serbian people and religious sites in what Serbia still terms its "southern province".

In their second meeting this week, the two agreed also on the need for unity among Serbs on such an issue of national interest, a statement from the Serbian Presidency said.

This was the fifth time that Nikolic met the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church since he became President in May. The purpose of the summits is to seek the Church's support for government policy on Kosovo.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has long protested against Kosovo's independence, proclaimed in 2008, calling Kosovo "Serbia's Jerusalem".

Nikolic and Patriarch Irinej expressed especial concern about the Serbian Church in Kosovo in the light of recent events related to the historic Visoki Decani monastery.

On February 8, local Albanians living near this medieval Serbian shrine protested against a decision of the Kosovo Supreme Court that confirmed the UNESCO-protected monastery's right to 23 hectares of land.

The meeting of the heads of Church and state comes after Serbia in January adopted a resolution on Kosovo.

The resolution said that while Serbia will never recognize Kosovo's independence, EU-led talks with Kosovo on "normalising" relations should continue.

The resolution was adopted along with a "platform", which demands a high level of territorial and political autonomy for Serbian municipalities throughout Kosovo.

The meeting comes a week after the Serbian President met his Kosovo counterpart, Atifete Jahjaga, in Brussels.

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