Serbia and Kosovo set for talks to de-escalate tensions
The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have warned of difficult negotiations brokered by the EU on Thursday amid escalating tensions over new regulations concerning Serbs living in Kosovo.
Ahead of the rare talks to be held on Thursday, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic accused his counterpart of “lying” about Belgrade’s plans to attack its neighbor, while Kosovo blamed Belgrade for instigating protests inside Kosovo.
Tensions flared up between Serbia and Kosovo last month when the Kosovo government declared that Serbian identity documents and vehicle license plates would no longer be valid, but after apparent pressure from the West, Kosovo postponed the implementation of the measure for a month, to 1 September.
“We are going to have difficult discussions tomorrow," Vucic said, on the eve of the talks. “We do not agree on almost anything” with Kurti and the Kosovo leadership.
Vucic added that a generation of new Serb "kids" living there “do not consider Kosovo as an independent state and view it as a part of Serbia.”
On the other hand, Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti warned again that Serbia was a threat to his country, and was backed by its ally Russia.
“Kosovo’s institutions and citizens . . . have reason to be vigilant about the destructive approach of our northern neighbour towards Kosovo and the region in general,” he said.
Hopes are slim for a major breakthrough during the talks but EU officials overseeing the deadlock between the two neighbors say it would at least reduce the increasing rhetoric of war coming from both sides.
“All open issues will be addressed and should be addressed through the EU-facilitated dialogue,” European Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs Nabila Massrali told reporters. “Both parties must end their hostilities at this point” and “act responsibly.”
Serbia does not recognise the sovereignty of its former province, which declared independence in 2008, nine years after the Kosovo war, which ended after Nato bombed Serbia in response to Belgrade’s targeted killing of Kosovan Albanians.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who separately met Vucic and Kurti in Brussels on Wednesday, said NATO-led troops stationed in Kosovo have strengthened their presence because of the current tensions.
"But of course, we will act when needed and we will act in a proportionate way because our main aim is to help to reduce tensions and to ensure all communities to freedom of movement, to the safety of all communities, including, of course, the Serbs in Kosovo,” Stoltenberg said.
Nato has more than 3,700 troops in Kosovo under a UN mandate to preserve stability.