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Serbia PM sends message of peace in landmark visit to northern Kosovo

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By Louise Miner  with EBU
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic speaks during her visit in the northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic speaks during her visit in the northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP   -  

Serbia's prime minister made a landmark visit to Kosovo and sent a message of "peace, stability and tolerance".

Ana Brnabic is the highest-ranking Serbian official to visit Kosovo in years.

It comes amid a recent flare-up of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo who went to war in 1998-99.

Recent problems erupted last month over Serbia's and Kosovo's refusal to recognise each other's identity documents and vehicle licence plates.

Brnabic, visiting Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, said: "I want to send a clear and simple message from here in Kosovo and Metohija, a message of peace, stability and tolerance. It is especially important to me that I am visiting Kosovo and Metohija at such an extremely difficult and complex moment, I am satisfied that even after the last provocations on July 31, we managed to preserve the peace."

At the same time, two Kosovan ministers visited southern Serbia to improve relations. The majority of people living there are Albanian and the president of the National Council of Albanians, Ragmi Mustafa, said these visits are a positive move.

"We talked about the economy, politics and current affairs in which we find ourselves, and especially the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia," said Mustafa. "This means that this is something good because when we don't have visitors, we have tensions, which is bad. Therefore, these trips, I think, give a good sign that we are moving towards progress."

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia. 

In 1998, separatist ethnic Kosovo Albanians rebelled against Serbia's rule, prompting a brutal crackdown.

In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to end the fighting and force Belgrade to pull out of Kosovo.

But Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence and tensions recently soared, prompting Western diplomatic efforts to defuse them.

The EU has told both Kosovo and Serbia that they must normalise ties if they want to advance toward membership of the 27-nation bloc.

Brussels and Washington recently stepped up efforts to mediate in the crisis fearing that uncertainties over the war in Ukraine and Serbia's close ties with Russia could aggravate the situation.