Tags: serbia | kosovo | eu | deal

Serbia to Reject Kosovo Deal; Begs EU for More Time

Monday, 08 Apr 2013 09:02 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia said on Monday it would reject a European Union-brokered proposal to tackle the ethnic partition in its former province Kosovo and pleaded for time to reach a deal that would keep the country's EU membership bid on track.

It was unclear whether the EU might agree to one last push to negotiate a deal, after EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton set a Tuesday deadline for Serbia and Kosovo to accept the principles on the table after talks broke down last week.

Ashton is due to issue a progress report on the situation by mid-April, something that will likely decide whether the bloc opens accessions talks with Serbia this year, a process that would drive reform and help lure investors to the ailing Serbian economy, the biggest in the former Yugoslavia.

Five years after Kosovo declared independence, the West wants Belgrade to cede its fragile hold on a northern, Serb-populated pocket of its former province, where ethnic Albanians are the majority.

Serbia says the some 50,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo must have broad autonomy, but that a proposal that emerged from months of negotiations — full details of which have not been made public — fell short.

The plan "fails to recognise our basic interests and should not be signed", Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the largest party in Serbia's ruling coalition, told reporters.

"We will ask that the dialogue continue; we need a solution as soon as possible," he said, adding that the government would confirm the decision at a cabinet session at 5 p.m.

MORE NEGOTIATIONS?

Months of negotiations between the two sides in Brussels broke up last week without result. Setting her Tuesday deadline, Ashton said there would be no formal resumption of talks.

The EU's envoy to Serbia, however, appeared to hold out the possibility of another round of negotiations.

"It's up to Ashton to decide if the process will be continued, since she herself said that the differences are small but the gaps are deep, and when the answers arrive tonight she will decide whether the process can be continued," Ambassador Vincent Degert said, according to the Tanjug state news agency.

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO launched 11 weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces waging a brutal counter-insurgency campaign.

Considered by many Serbs as the cradle of their nation and Orthodox Christian faith, the territory of 1.7 million people declared independence in 2008 and has been recognised by more than 90 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

Serbia, however, has said it will never recognise the secession, and retained de facto control over the Serb north — an ethnic partition that frequently flares into violence and has frustrated NATO hopes of cutting back its now 6,000-strong Kosovo peacekeeping force.

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Serbia said on Monday it would reject a European Union-brokered proposal to tackle the ethnic partition in its former province Kosovo and pleaded for time to reach a deal that would keep the country's EU membership bid on track.
serbia,kosovo,eu,deal
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2013-02-08
Monday, 08 Apr 2013 09:02 AM
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