Kosovo offers to bury differences with Serbia

Prime minister Hashim Thaçi, writing for Comment is free, responds to EU calls for talks with Belgrade neighbour

The prime minister of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia and declared independence two years ago, has offered to make a fresh start in relations with Belgrade, which is coming under increasing European pressure to respond in kind.

In an article for the Guardian's Comment is free, Hashim Thaçi said it was "inevitable" that Kosovo and Serbia would resolve their deep enmity, bury their differences, and look to a future integrated in the European Union (EU).

The call for new negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade followed a blunt warning to the Serbian government this week from the foreign secretary, William Hague, who said the Serbs were jeopardising their chances of joining the EU by refusing to deal with an independent Kosovo.

The Serbs have tabled a draft resolution, to be discussed next week at the United Nations in New York, calling for Kosovo's secession to be condemned.

Hague told the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, to ditch the resolution. If he refused, Serbia's application to join the EU would be in trouble, Hague warned. If Tadic agreed, Britain would be Serbia's biggest backer in seeking to join the EU. Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, delivered a similar message in Belgrade last week.

Thaçi appeared to be responding to the growing calls from Brussels and west European capitals for the opening of new talks between Belgrade and Pristina.

"My country looks forward to working with Serbia and discussing practical issues that would improve the lives of all of our citizens," Thaçi said. "We are neighbours and we face common challenges. Our Serbian neighbours may not recognise Kosovo's independence just yet, but cooperation between the two independent states is inevitable."

The International Court of Justice dealt Serbie a blow in July, rejecting a demand from Belgrade to declare Kosovo's independence against international law.

Hague told the Serbs it was time to end recriminations from the outcome of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, to accept the new reality, and to focus on the future, with eventual EU membership.

Serbia has applied to join, but Brussels has yet to rule on opening negotiations. Membership is years away and improbable unless Serbia recognises an independent Kosovo, something it has vowed never to do.

Nato went to war against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999. The territory, populated mainly by ethnic Albanians, was then put under UN stewardship, leading to the declaration of independence in 2008. Serbia refuses to accept that. But Thaçi complimented Tadic. "Today's Serbian government," he said, "has a different complexion from the one that terrorised my people 11 years ago."

Hague said the map of the Balkans, redrawn in the 1990s as a result of the wars and the collapse of Yugoslavia, was now complete and would not be re-opened, meaning Kosovo's fate was settled and there could be no Serbian secession in Bosnia.


Ian Traynor in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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