| 15 July 2024, Monday |

Kosovo, Serbia leaders arrive for EU-backed talks on deal to normalise ties

Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo, and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia, arrived in North Macedonia on Saturday for a new round of discussions with EU representatives over the implementation of a pact to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

Before a three-way meeting and a news conference that are anticipated for later in the day, the two leaders will have separate meetings with Josep Borrell, the head of foreign policy for the European Union.

“I am optimistic,” Kurti said ahead of the meetings, taking place in the lakeside town of Ohrid in North Macedonia.

“I came here with a good aim, with a good will and with trust that what was agreed before…will continue here through the talks for the implementation plan, and in this way have a final deal on the normalisation.”

Kosovo and Serbia agreed in Brussels last month to a Western-backed deal to normalise relations, following nearly 10 years of EU-mediated dialogue during which little progress was made. However, agreement is still needed on an annex on implementing the plan, which will be the focus of Saturday’s discussions.

“The eyes of the EU & the Western Balkans are on Ohrid today,” Borrell tweeted.

Serbia’s constitution considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory even though it declared independence in 2008. Belgrade and Pristina need to mend bilateral ties for both to achieve their strategic goal of joining the EU.

“I want to caution that we may not have a final agreement,” Gabriel Escobar, the senior U.S. diplomat for the Western Balkans who is also attending the Ohrid talks, told Pristina-based RTV21 station.

“We are going to work towards finalising the annex, but I expect a lot of progress.”

NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 in response to the expulsion of Kosovo’s majority Albanians by Serb forces after which Belgrade lost control of its southern province.

  • Reuters