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Serbia and Kosovo leaders urged to resume dialogue to diffuse escalating tension

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti Copyright Visar Kryeziu/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Visar Kryeziu/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews
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EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak and his US counterpart Gabriel Escobar met with Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Pristina on Saturday before they travel to Belgrade.

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Envoys representing the European Union and the United States have urged Kosovo and Serbia to resume talks in a bid to de-escalate soaring tensions between Belgrade and the breakaway territory. 

EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak and his American counterpart Gabriel Escobar, accompanied by top diplomats from Germany, France and Italy, met with Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti in the capital, Pristina, on Saturday.

It is the first such visit since 24 September when about 30 Serb gunmen crossed into northern Kosovo and killed a police officer.

On that occasion, they set up barricades before launching an hours-long shoot-out with Kosovo police. Three gunmen were killed.

“If there is no dialogue, there might be a repetition of escalation,” Lajcak said after meeting with Kurti on Saturday.

Lajcak said they strongly denounced “the terrorist attack against Kosovo police by armed individuals [that] constitutes a clear and unprecedented escalation”.

He added that the incident “very clearly underlined that both de-escalation and normalisation are now more urgent than ever”.

Both Serbia and Kosova want to join the EU.

They have been told they first need to sort out their differences.

Western governments want Kosovo and Serbia to implement a 10-point plan put forward by the EU in February to end months of political crises.

Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave their approval at the time, but with some reservations that are yet to be resolved, mainly the establishment of the Association of the Serb-Majority Municipalities, or ASM.

The EU and US are pressuring Kosovo to allow for its creation to coordinate work on education, health care, land planning and economic development at the local level.

A 2013 Pristina-Belgrade agreement on forming the Serb association was later declared unconstitutional by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, citing its failure to include other ethnicities and potential use of executive powers to impose laws.

Pristina fears the new association is an effort by Belgrade to create a Serb mini-state with wide autonomy, similar to Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Lajcak urged Pristina “to move on the establishment of the Association of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo without further delay”.

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“Without this, there will be no progress on Kosovo’s European path", Lajcak added. 

In July, the EU imposed punishing measures on Kosovo for refusing the ASM, suspending funding of some projects and stopping visits of top diplomats.

Following the failure of the September talks between Kurti and Vucic as well as the recent flare-up, it is unclear when another round of meetings might take place.

Kosovo wants Europe to sanction Serbia which it blames for the September attack, saying no further talks could be held under the current circumstances.

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It demanded higher security measures from the West due to fears of an increased presence of Serb military forces along its border.

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