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Serbia snubs Kosovo in peace talks blow

Aleksandar Vucic updates

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic broke off planned talks with his Kosovar counterpart in Brussels on Friday in order to signal the obstacles to a peace agreement between the Balkan regions two decades after their war.

Belgrade provided the snub along with a broadside against “lies originating from Pristina”, while Kosovo President Hashim Thaci replied that the differences between the two sides remained “very deep” despite recent hopes for an agreement.

The cancellation of the EU-backed meeting dealt a controversial idea of ​​the two heads of state and government last month to agree on a land swap that could lead to full recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia and internationally.

An EU diplomat described the developments on Friday as “psychodrama” and said the two heads of state and government had to “let off steam” before their next scheduled Brussels meeting at the end of this month.

Kosovo split from Serbia in 1999 and declared independent in 2008, since then it has been recognized by more than 110 countries – but mostly not by Serbia, Russia and five EU member states. Hopes for a solution rose at the end of last month when the Serbian and Kosovar presidents discussed a possible realignment of borders along ethnic lines. However, the couple also faced a backlash from national opponents and some international powers, particularly Germany.

It became known on Friday that Mr Vucic had ordered the Serbian army, police and intelligence services to cease communications with their Kosovar counterparts and NATO personnel in Kosovo. Serbian officials later confirmed that their president had refused to talk to Mr Thaci and only met Federica Mogherini, EU foreign affairs representative and convener of the Brussels negotiations.

Marko Djuric, Serbia’s chief official for Kosovo, told reporters in the Belgian capital that his president had told Ms. Mogherini about “all the lies that have come out of Pristina in the past few days”. Mr Djuric said it was unacceptable for Mr Thaci from Kosovo to say he wanted Pristina to take control of parts of three communities in Serbia’s Presevo Valley that are residents of ethnic Albanians.

Mr Thaci told reporters that he did not appreciate the boycott of Mr Vucic, who allegedly wants Serbia to have territory in northern Kosovo, which is mostly inhabited by ethnic Serbs.

“The difficulties are great, the differences are deep, but the path to stability has no other option,” said Thaci. “It is a conflict that is more than a century old and cannot be resolved in days, weeks or months. But people deserve peace and future generations deserve a more secure future. ”

Ms. Mogherini acknowledged the “difficulties” but said she trusted Serbia and Kosovo to commit to a legally binding agreement. She said she had “multiple rounds of talks” with both leaders individually and called another dialogue session this month.

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