Serbia accepts 'dialogue' with Kosovo after EU deal
Serbia has agreed to call for "dialogue" with Kosovo following talks with the European Union on Wednesday in a process seen as bolstering the EU's mediating role in the region.
The Serbian government said in a statement that it had agreed to amend a resolution due to go before the UN General Assembly later this month that will call for "a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina."
An earlier draft of the resolution had been criticised in Europe for condemning Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence but the government said the new version represented a compromise with the EU.
The amended draft is "in accordance with our principal stance that a mutually acceptable solution... can be found through negotiations," it added.
The government insisted however that the draft "does not, in any way, recognise the independence" of Kosovo.
European governments welcomed the announcement.
"This is another step along the road towards normalisation of relations," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
The Spanish foreign ministry expressed "deep satisfaction," saying: "With this accord Serbia strongly reaffirms its desire to continue the firm steps in the European integration process, in a constructive spirit."
Analysts believe the diplomatic bargaining has recognised the EU as the key player in any possible talks between Belgrade and Pristina.
"We can assume that the Kosovo issue would now return from the UN to Brussels and the EU will probably appear in a supervising role for possible future negotiations," analyst Predrag Simic told Beta news agency.
The amended draft abolishes a phrase from the previous one which describes Kosovo's "unilateral secession" as an "unacceptable method to resolve the problem," Beta reported.
The draft text also says that the UN "welcomes EU readiness to ease a process of dialogue between the sides," it added.
Also, a sentence from the original resolution saying that "unilateral secession can not be an acceptable solution to solve territorial issues" was abolished from the new draft.
In February 2008, Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia, despite fierce opposition from Belgrade, which continued to consider it as its southern province.
So far 70 states, including the US and most EU members, have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.
Belgrade submitted the draft resolution after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a non-binding opinion in July that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence did not violate international law.
The original draft was much-criticised by the EU leaders, as 22 of 27 EU member states have recognised Kosovo.
Serbian President Boris Tadic, who met with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels on Tuesday, said the draft "is a fruit of compromise," Tanjug news agency reported.
He was also quoted as saying that "a formula to open a dialogue on future solutions has been found."
Ashton said the new text was "a reflection of our common commitment to Serbia's European perspective."
Analyst Tanja Miscevic of the non-government group European Movement said the compromise was "very important" for Serbia's future integration in the bloc.
"We will appear in the UN together, which means the resolution that means a lot to us, will surely be adopted," Miscevic said.
In June, the EU authorised the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia, a trade and aid pact considered the first official step on the long road towards full membership in the EU.
Last December Serbia formally applied to begin membership talks but the EU nations must together make the decision to hand the application on to the commission.
© 2010 AFP