Serbia, Kosovo make progress in border talks: EU official

Serbia and Kosovo made “some progress” in talks aimed at easing tensions on their border, an EU official said early Friday, in the wake of violence that marred Belgrade’s...
Serbia and Kosovo made “some progress” in talks aimed at easing tensions on their border, an EU official said early Friday, in the wake of violence that marred Belgrade’s EU aspirations.
Brussels, Friday, December 2, 2011

Negotiators from both sides met for more than 12 hours on Thursday on a second day of EU-brokered talks that ended at midnight, but no agreement was announced on an EU proposal on management of the contested border.

“Some progress was made,” the European Union official said, adding that EU mediator Robert Cooper would brief the 27-nation bloc on Friday and that a statement would be issued. The official declined to give more details.
The negotiations, which began in March, are also aimed at resolving practical day-to-day problems for residents of Kosovo caused by Serbia’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

It was unclear whether the two negotiators, Serbia’s Borko Stefanovic and Kosovo’s Edita Tahiri, would meet again on Friday. A source familiar with the talks said the two sides were staying overnight in Brussels.

Fresh violence at border crossings in recent days left scores injured, including NATO peacekeepers, while threatening to scuttle the fledgling Serbia-Kosovo talks as well as Serbia’s dreams of EU membership.

Some 50 soldiers from the NATO-led mission, including Austrians and Germans, were hurt when trying to dismantle barricades put up by members of northern Kosovo’s majority ethnic Serbs. Protesters refuse to recognise border guards and customs officials sent by the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Serbia on Thursday to exercise “the maximum pressure on those who perpetrate violence to make sure the barricades are removed.”

The EU proposed that crossings be placed under the joint management of Serbia and Kosovo, with members of the European rule of law mission EULEX combining officials and police overseeing the posts.

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