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Europe

Serbia agrees to EU-backed talks with Kosovo

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-10

Serbia has agreed to dialogue with Kosovo by supporting a landmark UN resolution which could bring cooperation between the detached states, and would also favour Belgrade in its bid to become an EU member state.

REUTERS - In a concession to the European Union that it hopes to join, Serbia supported a compromise U.N. resolution on Kosovo on Thursday that dropped its earlier demands to reopen talks on the status of its former province.
 
Instead, Serbia agreed to an EU-backed dialogue with Kosovo that the nonbinding General Assembly resolution said would aim to promote cooperation. The resolution was passed by acclamation by the 192-nation assembly.
 
Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO waged a bombing campaign to halt killings of ethnic Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, backed by the United States and most EU countries.
 
In July, in response to a Serbian request, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Kosovo did not violate international law by declaring independence.
 
Belgrade then turned to the United Nations, submitting a resolution that said unilateral secession was unacceptable and called for a "mutually acceptable solution for all outstanding issues," assumed to include the basic one of Kosovo's status.
 
But Serbia, which has often said it will never endorse Kosovo independence, said on Wednesday it would accept a much softer text agreed with EU officials after intense lobbying in recent weeks.
 
The amended text passed by the General Assembly drops condemnation of Kosovo's independence declaration, acknowledges the ICJ opinion and welcomes EU readiness "to facilitate a process of dialogue between the parties."
 
"That dialogue would be to promote cooperation, achieve progress on the path to the European Union and improve the lives of the people," said the resolution sponsored by the 27 EU countries and by Serbia itself.
 
Assembly session delay
 
Underlining that hostility between Belgrade and Pristina is far from over, the assembly session was delayed nearly three hours as Serbia objected to the presence of Kosovo officials at the back of the chamber. Kosovo is not a U.N. member.
 
The dispute was eventually resolved when the officials were signed in as guests of five Western countries, diplomats said.
 
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, introducing the resolution, said it was neutral on Kosovo's status. Serbia "does not and shall not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo," he reaffirmed.
 
"We hope that the resolution ... would help create an atmosphere conducive to the establishment of a comprehensive compact of peace between Serbs and Albanians, achieved through good-faith dialogue," he said.
 
U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo, responding to concerns raised by several countries that the ICJ ruling could encourage separatist movements around the world, said Kosovo was "a special case and not a precedent for other conflicts."
 
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters the resolution "marks a new phase for both Serbia and Kosovo. It marks a departure from the past."
 
The European Union had warned that Serbia's original draft resolution could damage its EU membership prospects, although Western diplomats at the United Nations had said they thought that text would be defeated in the assembly.
 
Kosovo Albanians make up 90 percent of the country's population, with a Serb minority mostly in the northern areas bordering Serbia.
 
The EU wants talks to focus on practical issues such as how Kosovo trucks can enter Serbia, what curriculum is taught in Kosovo Serb schools and whether Kosovo can have its own telephone area code.
 
In Serbia, the opposition Democratic Party of Serbia has criticized the government's move, with party vice president Slobodan Samardzic calling it "a major Serbian defeat to ultimatums of the Western powers."

 

Date created : 2010-09-10

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