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Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo hold talks as pressure mounts for an agreement

BRUSSELS — Brussels on Monday hosts the rival leaders of Kosovo and Serbia as the European Union ramps up pressure to reach a landmark deal it hopes will lead to a normalization of relations between the enemies.

Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, with regular unrest erupting between Belgrade and its former breakaway province.

Both sides have admitted they have come under increasing pressure from Western governments to broker an agreement after more than two decades of bitterness.

Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic were due to meet the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell at the bloc’s headquarters on Monday afternoon, where they are likely to discuss the details of an agreement that could lay the groundwork for a possible deal.

The latest round of talks follows months of shuttle diplomacy in a renewed push to resolve long-simmering tensions nearly 25 years after war between ethnic Albanian insurgents and Serb forces sparked a NATO bombing campaign that ended fighting.

Last week, Kurti told Kosova’s parliament that the deal currently in the works would pave the way for the territory’s accession to a number of international institutions – a long-awaited goal for the government in Pristina.

“I think the next meeting will show how hopeful we can be for this year,” Kurti told lawmakers, saying he was “very optimistic that there can be an agreement this year.”

On the other hand, Serbian President Vucic has said his government is under pressure to reach an agreement.

In a televised address last month, Vucic said he had been given an ultimatum by Western countries to normalize relations with Kosovo or face measures that would cause “major damage” to his country.

“(They) said – you have to accept this plan or you will be faced with the disruption of the process of European integration, stopping and withdrawing investments and comprehensive economic and political measures that will cause great damage to the Republic of Serbia.” Vucic told viewers.

– “Russian aggression” –

The mounting pressure comes as Western governments have reserved much of their diplomatic power to deal with the war in Ukraine, fueling fears that the Kremlin could use the Kosovo issue as a wedge to further divide Europe.

“Russian aggression in Ukraine has changed the dynamic. The West cannot allow Russia to potentially open a new front and this region is unstable enough,” said Aleksandar Popov, a political analyst at the Center for Regionalism based in Novi Sad, Serbia.

On Friday, a senior EU official told journalists that Russia was actively trying to derail negotiations between the two sides.

The question remains how both heads of state would be able to sell a potential agreement to their respective peoples.

Kosovo remains an obsession among large sections of the Serb population, who consider the area their rightful homeland, having witnessed crucial battles over the centuries and steeped in nationalist mythology.

An estimated 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, many of whom remain largely loyal to Belgrade – particularly in the northern areas near the border with Serbia, where unrest, demonstrations and occasional violence are frequent.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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