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news 01 Oct 12

Thaci Rules Out Partition of Kosovo

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that Kosovo and Serbia must normalise relations soon to begin integrating with Europe, but he insisted that partition of Kosovo "will never happen."

AP

Thaci met with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and US officials in a fringe meeting at the UN General assembly annual session.

Speaking to the Associated Press following the meeting, Thaci said that Kosovo wants dialogue with Serbia in order to normalise relations.

"Kosovo will benefit, Serbia will benefit. It will mean an end to the era of conflicts in the region and a faster process of integration of all countries," Thaci said.

The European Union is trying to broker talks next month between Kosovo and Serbia.

The EU is expected to push for a resolution on Kosovo's tense north, where the Kosovo authorities have little control over ethnic Serbs who suffered reprisal attacks after the province broke away from Serbia in 2008, and reject the authority of the ethnic Albanian-dominated government in Pristina.

Some Serbian officials have said that partition is the best solution, but Thaci said that redrawing any borders would set a dangerous precedent for the Balkans.

He said Serbs in northern Kosovo must integrate into Kosovar society, but that task has been made more difficult because they "have been deceived now for 12 years by Belgrade that there will be partition. That will never happen. Partition implies changing the borders for a minimum six countries."

Another source of division is a 2010 Council of Europe report by Swiss politician Dick Marty that alleges the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, including Thaci, killed Serbian civilian captives during the 1990s and sold their organs. Albania and Kosovo have repeatedly denied the claims.

Earlier this month, a Serbian prosecutor said that a witness came forward and testified "in detail" about the allegations, which the European Union is now investigating.

Thaci dismissed the claims as "science fiction," though he acknowledged "they have harmed my image, and the image of Kosovo."

Serbia insists it will never recognize Kosovo, which it views as a national heartland, but the EU wants Belgrade to normalize ties with Pristina as a precondition for EU membership.

"We need to start," he said. "The more delays we face, the more difficult this process will become. Therefore both Kosovo and Serbia should fight to catch up, in order to have a faster integration process."

The EU is slated to release a report on October 10 on Kosovo's progress on preparing for a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step in the long path to membership.

Earlier this month, a 25-nation group made up of the US, Turkey and EU countries formally ended supervision of Kosovo, which it had guided since the end of its bloody war with Serbia.

A massive international presence remains, however. About, 5,600 NATO-led peacekeepers are still in charge of security and a 3,000-strong EU mission has the final say in legal matters. Corruption, organized crime, smuggling and high unemployment remain huge problems.

"We have worked very hard, but I am aware that we need to do more," Thaci said. "We are now seen by the world as a normal functioning country."

 

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