Tue, 20 Apr 2021

PRISTINA -- The European Union's special envoy for talks between Serbia and Kosovo, Miroslav Lajcak, says there is a "clear understanding" among Kosovo's leaders of the importance of EU-mediated normalization talks with neighboring Serbia.

Lajcak made the comments at a press conference in Pristina on March 2, two weeks after the leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party won parliamentary elections.

Speaking after talks with acting President Vjosa Osmani, Lajcak said he believed a comprehensive agreement between Kosovo and Serbia could be reached "within several months" but that it was up to the two countries to "decide how quickly they want to proceed."

Osmani said that the upcoming administration will be ready to resume dialogue with Belgrade but she warned that Pristina "can by no means accept that the issue of borders, sovereignty, constitutional regulation of Kosovo become part of the negotiations.'

The EU envoy kicked off his three-day visit to Kosovo's capital on March 1, meeting with Kosovar Prime Minister-designate Albin Kurti, who said that dialogue with Belgrade is important but that the resumption of talks won't be his top priority, according to local media.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign drove Serb troops out and an international peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo, but Serbia and its ally Russia do not.

Kosovo-Serbia relations have remained tense despite the ongoing EU-led negotiations on normalizing ties. Dialogue between the two neighbors have stalled since a White House summit and talks in Brussels in September 2020.

Osmani suggested that the final goal of the dialogue should be membership for both Kosovo and Serbia.

'It is not a question of what Kosovo can give again, but how the EU can give the benefit to Kosovo and Serbia for EU membership,' he said.

Lajcak also met on March 1 with the U.S. ambassador to Pristina, Philip Kosnett, who "reaffirmed U.S. support for a collaborative, EU-led dialogue process."

"Our goal: a comprehensive settlement and deeper Euro-Atlantic integration that benefits all Kosovo and Serbian citizens," the U.S. ambassador tweeted after the talks.

During his March 2 press conference, Lajcak said cooperation between the EU and the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden in the normalization process was "as close as it could be."

"We are working very closely on a daily basis with our U.S. partners and friends and we share the same goal, which is a European future, for Kosovo and for the entire region of the Western Balkans," he said.

The EU envoy will head to Belgrade after departing from Pristina.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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