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Serbia’s Vucic Says Kosovo Talks Must Continue So They Remain on EU Path

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia needs to continue talks with Kosovo on normalizing ties within the framework of the latest international peace plan in order to pursue a path towards European Union membership, President Aleksandar Vucic told parliament on Thursday.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a guerrilla uprising against Belgrade’s repressive rule. Over the past decade, the two have been holding normalization talks under EU mediation, with a successful outcome key to realizing the aspirations of both to join the wealthy bloc.

Last month EU, US, German, French and Italian envoys met leaders from both countries to try to convince them to sign an 11-point deal meant to defuse tensions lingering since the 1998-99 conflict.

Vucic told parliament the envoys warned that if Serbia did not accept the proposal, its EU membership talks would be halted and access to pre-accession funds and investments denied.

“EU membership is of vital interest for us. One cannot function without allies,” Vucic told a special parliament session to debate the plan on Thursday.

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“We are surrounded by NATO member countries and NATO troops are in neighboring countries (Bosnia and Kosovo). Which side should we take at the time of conflict?”

Vucic’s statement showed Belgrade is distancing itself from traditional ally Russia, which vetoed Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations.

Western diplomats have often criticized Serbia for close ties with Russia and Belgrade’s refusal to join the EU sanctions against Moscow.

Under the international plan, the two countries would have to open representative offices in each other’s capitals and work on resolving outstanding issues.

Serbia would also not be required to recognize the independence of its former province, but would have to stop lobbying against Kosovo’s membership in international bodies.

Vucic said that while the current plan offered Serbia few perks, talks must continue.

“It is not what we gain, it is about what we will lose,” he said.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Ben Dangerfield)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters,

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