EU and US urge Serbia and Kosovo to resume dialogue to lower tensions
Envoys from the EU and US as well as high-ranking diplomats from France, Germany and Italy met with the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia at the weekend, urging them to resume dialogue to ease escalating tensions concentrated in northern Kosovo.
The meetings followed an attack by a group of armed Serbs in September, whose members killed a Kosovan police officer and engaged in a gun battle with Kosovan law enforcers.
EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak said that continued dialogue is essential to prevent further escalation, noting that both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to join the EU but must resolve their differences first.
“Both the de-escalation and normalisation are now more urgent than ever,” Lajcak told journalists in Pristina after meeting Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti on October 21. “Any conditions or delays are unacceptable.”
The two sides are required to fulfill their commitments in the EU-sponsored discussions, a prerequisite for their advancement toward membership of the bloc, said Lajcak.
He stressed the need to set up the Association of Serb Municipalities in northern Kosovo, which is mainly populated by ethnic Serbs. Kosovo is required to take this step as part of the normalisation process, but Pristina has so far resisted doing so.
“Without this, there will be no progress in Kosovo’s European path,” the diplomat said.
A statement issued by the Kosovan prime minister’s office said discussions covered the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, namely the implementation of the agreement struck (but not signed) between the two countries in February 27 and the implementation annex agreed the following month.
“The prime minister [Kurti] emphasised that qualitative reflection and a new approach are necessary. All five emissaries offered their new plan for moving forward, for which the prime minister expressed his thanks and appreciation. Discussions must continue intensively,” the statement from Kurti’s office said.
After the meeting with Kurti, the delegation that comprised Lajcak, US special envoy Gabriel Escobar, and Emmanuel Bonne, Alessandro Cattaneo and Jens Plettner, representing France, Italy and Germany respectively, moved on to Belgrade to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
In a statement posted on Instagram Vucic said the meeting had been “difficult” but expressed optimism about an end to the ongoing crisis.
“A difficult meeting with the five. I believe that in the coming period we will find a way out of the crisis. I expect important meetings in Brussels in the coming days,” he wrote.
The meetings took place shortly after MEPs backed a resolution on October 19 calling on the two sides to renounce violence and provocations and to refrain from actions that could exacerbate tensions.
In the resolution, MEPs expressed deep reservations regarding the Serbian government's approach towards Kosovo and its relations with Western partners. Should the investigation reveal direct involvement of the Serbian state in the September 24 attacks, MEPs recommend freezing funding provided to Serbia under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III.
The EU already imposed punitive measures on Kosovo over its failure to de-escalation tensions in the north of the country following an outbreak of unrest in May.
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