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Kosovo and Serbia begin first face-to-face talks

Kosovo and Serbia begin first face-to-face talks
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Kosovo and Serbia have begun their first direct negotiations since Pristina declared independence three years ago.

The EU-mediated talks in Brussels are designed to ease troubled relations and make progress towards possible European Union membership.

The crucial issue of Kosovo’s independence, which Serbia rejects, is being put to one side. Instead the talks are concentrating on day-to-day problems between the two countries.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognised by 75 countries, including the US and most EU countries, but not by Russia and China.

More than ten years after the conflict which led to the breakaway, Pristina still feels the effects of Serbian hostility.

Belgrade blocks Kosovo’s trade and obstructs other attempts by its former territory to assert its independence.

“I am waiting for some concrete results because it’s about time for talks. Yes, things happened in the past between us and Serbia but we need a proper state for the future,” said Naser Dula, a musician from Pristina.

In Belgrade many still see Kosovo, where 90 percent of people are ethnic Albanians, as the cradle of their Orthodox Christian religion.

Compromise on the hard issues could prove elusive.

In the short term Kosovo is hoping for closer trade links with the EU. Serbia will need to show more flexibility if it wants to increase its own chances of membership.