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Delays in calming Kosovo-Serbia tensions 'unacceptable':EU envoy

Lajcak: De-escalation and normalisation more urgent than ever

21 October, 19:34

(ANSA) - PRISTINA, 21 OTT - An EU envoy warned Saturday that any delays in calming tensions between Kosovo and Serbia -- which he described as more urgent than ever -- were "unacceptable". A shooting in Kosovo's volatile north last month near the border with Serbia that killed a police officer triggered one of the worst escalations in years in the ethnic Albanian-majority former Serbian breakaway province.
    On Saturday, the European Union's envoy for the Serbia-Kosovo talks Miroslav Lajcak, as well as diplomats from the United States, France, Germany and Italy, visited the capital Pristina.
    Later on, the five diplomats travelled to the Serbian capital Belgrade for a meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic.
    "Both the de-escalation and normalisation are now more urgent than ever," Lajcak told reporters in Pristina after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. "Any conditions or delays are unacceptable." Both Kosovo and Serbia are expected to fully meet their obligations under EU-sponsored talks, which is a condition for their progress on the path towards membership of the bloc, Lajcak said. He stressed the urgent need to make progress on setting up an association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo that would operate with some autonomy. "Without this, there will be no progress in Kosovo's European path." Kurti said that the five diplomats had presented him with a "new plan for moving forward". "Discussions must continue intensively," he said in a statement. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron called on both sides to "show responsibility", warning Paris could otherwise review Kosovo's visa-free travel for the EU next year. A close Vucic ally had at first admitted to leading the Serb commando that ambushed a Kosovo police patrol in September, but then denied it when questioned by prosecutors in Belgrade. Tensions had been high in Kosovo's north for months, after Pristina's decision in May to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities.
    That followed a Serb boycott of the local elections a month earlier. The September 24 clash in the north was the latest of a series of incidents since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade -- and key allies China and Russia -- still refuse to recognise the move. Animosity between Kosovo and Serbia has persisted since a war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in the late 1990s that drew NATO intervention against Belgrade. ih-ljv/kjm / (ANSA).

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