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EU Summons Kosovo and Serbia Leaders for Emergency Talks

The European Union has summoned the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for emergency talks to try to bring an end to a series of violent clashes near their border, fearing a return to open conflict.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that he would hold “urgent meetings” with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on Thursday.

It was unclear whether the two would meet face to face or hold separate talks with Borrell.

“We need immediate de-escalation and new elections in the north with participation of Kosovo Serbs. This is paramount for the region and [the] EU,” Borrell said on Twitter before the talks.

The 27-nation bloc has for years been leading talks aimed at reconciling the two foes but with little success.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti
Vucic, left, and Kurti, right, met with Borrell, second left, in Brussels, in February [File: Virginia Mayo/AP]

Serbia and its former province Kosovo have been at odds for decades.

Their 1998-99 conflict left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Belgrade has refused to recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Serbia has long seen Kosovo as its spiritual and historical homeland, the scene of pivotal battles over the centuries.

It continues to host some of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s most revered monasteries.

The flare-up

Tensions flared anew last month after Kosovo police seized local municipality buildings in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority, to install ethnic Albanian mayors following a local election that Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted.

Serbia has put its troops on the border on the highest state of alert amid a series of recent clashes between Kosovo Serbs on one side and Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers on the other.

A U.S. soldier in Kosovo's NATO peackeeping force (KFOR) stands guard near a municipal office in Leposavic, Kosovo
A US soldier in Kosovo’s NATO peacekeeping force stands guard near a municipal office in Leposavic [File: Fatos Bytyci/Reuters]

In recent weeks, NATO has sent in reinforcements.

Tensions persisted last week with three shock grenades exploding near Kosovo police stations in the north of the country, while Kosovo Serbs staged protests in front of municipality buildings.

Borrell had been trying for several days to have Kurti and Vucic come to Brussels but they had refused until now.

Still, Vucic said he would not be talking to Kurti in Brussels.

“I have nothing to talk to him about,” he told the state broadcaster RTS.

Vucic has said there can be no negotiations until the release of Serbs who have been arrested by Kosovo police for attacks on Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers.

Just four months ago, Borrell appeared to have made progress. He exited meetings with the pair to announce that Serbia and Kosovo had given their tacit approval to a EU-sponsored plan to end months of political crises and help improve their ties longer-term.

But the arrangement unravelled almost immediately as both leaders appeared to renege on commitments that Borrell suggested they had made.

Source: Al Jazeera



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