Serbia leader suggests compromise on Kosovo border definition
President Aleksandar Vucic suggested on Thursday he is prepared to compromise on defining Serbia's borders with Kosovo, to end a conflict with Europe's newest independent state, a key condition for the Balkan country to join the European Union.
With the help of Russia, its ally and a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, Belgrade is blocking Kosovo's membership in the United Nations and other organizations.
But normalization of relations with Pristina is a key condition for Serbia to come closer to membership in the European Union, which the government has set as its priority.
On July 31, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci dismissed suggestions that ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo, which has a five percent Serb minority, should be divided into ethnic lines.
But during a visit to the northern town of Sid, Vucic suggested that delimitation, a wording understood by many in the region to suggest partition, between Serbia and ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo, would be a way out.
"It takes two to tango," he said, referring to EU-led talks with Kosovo on the subject where he leads Serbia's delegation.
"I am striving, and that is my policy for the delimitation with Albanians. To have a territory where one does not know who administers it and how, and what belongs to whom - that is always a source of potential conflicts."
"Whether this will receive the popular support it remains to be seen," Vucic said in a TV broadcast, referring to public opinion in Serbia and among Kosovo Serbs. In the past, he said that a plebiscite would be required to verify the solution.
Many in Belgrade, politicians and analysts alike, say that a partition, allowing Serbia to maintain control over northern Kosovo, in exchange for the Presevo Valley, an ethnic Albanian-populated area in Serbia's south, could be acceptable to both sides.
Dragan Janjic, editor-in-chief of the Belgrade-based Beta news agency, said that because of sharply divided positions, Belgrade and Pristina are still far from a negotiated solution.
"Belgrade speaks about an exchange of territories and Pristina speaks about correction of borders, which brings us to the conclusion that Vucic and Thaci do not have a concrete agreement," Janjic told Reuters. "It is all still very hazy."
Serbia also wants broader autonomy for Serb enclaves in Kosovo, a protected status for Orthodox monasteries and financial compensation for what Serbia claims as its property including industrial and energy facilities.
Vucic, who is leading the Serbian team in EU-led talks with Kosovo and is expected to meet Thaci in Brussels soon, said the solution must be "comprehensive, not simplified," but declined to elaborate and "open negotiating cards."
Kosovo split from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes ousted Serbian forces and halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanians during a brutal two-year counter-insurgency.
Serbian nationalists and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church are adamantly opposed to the carve-up of Kosovo as the move would mean abandoning Serbia's constitutional claim on its whole territory.
Kosovo has been recognized by over 100 countries, including 23 out of 28 EU members.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)