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Kosovo to Pursue Renewed Talks With Serbia on Ties, Independence

Kosovo lawmakers voted to pursue reopening talks with Serbia, sponsored by the European Union and the U.S., as both sides seek deeper international relations.

Sixty-eight of 120 lawmakers in the breakaway province’s Parliament backed a six-point resolution authorizing the government of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, to hold negotiations “consistent with” its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“The normalization of relations with neighbors is a condition for” Kosovo’s integration in the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told lawmakers in Pristina today. “In no way would we talk about Kosovo’s status or about autonomy for the northern part of Kosovo.” Thaci was referring to Serbs who live in the north and do not recognize Kosovo’s institutions.

The European Commission, which issued a series of progress reports on Oct. 10 on countries aspiring to join the 27-member bloc, encouraged Belgrade and Pristina to restart talks and implement agreements on the free movement of people, customs stamps, the recognition of university diplomas, land records, civil registries, integrated border management and regional cooperation.

The “situation in the north of Kosovo remains a challenge for Kosovo, Serbia, the western Balkans region and the international community,” the commission said, and “needs to be urgently improved” with Kosovo’s authorities promoting multi-ethnicity. It also said changes to Kosovo’s borders won’t be allowed.

Cabinet Decision

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said his Cabinet would adopt a decision on renewing talks with Kosovo. The government stopped short of any formal announcements after a meeting today and Milivoje Mihajlovic, the head of the government’s press office, said “Serbia remains committed to dialog, and has never questioned that commitment to dialog.”

President Tomislav Nikolic plans to meet Dacic and his deputy, the parliament speaker, and the foreign and finance ministers to discuss a new platform for Kosovo tomorrow, according to the newspaper Novosti. The president’s press office did not confirm the report.

Serbs consider Kosovo, the home of their Orthodox church, as the cradle of their own culture and religion and reject any move to carve it from the nation. Kosovo is recognized by 22 of 27 EU member states.

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