BRUSSELS (AP) — The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo resumed talks Sunday aimed at normalizing their long-strained relations, more than 20 years after Belgrade sent troops into its former territory to crush an uprising by ethnic Albanian separatists.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti were holding video talks mediated by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, aimed at setting up a face-to-face meeting between the leaders, possibly in Brussels on Thursday. The process, known as the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, has been frozen since November 2018.
Borrell said in a video statement that clinching an agreement on normalizing their ties “is crucial for a better future for the people of Kosovo and Serbia. It is crucial for their European perspective, and for the security and stability of the region.
“These talks will require political courage from both sides. It will require commitment and engagement, in the spirit of compromise and pragmatism,” he said. ”It is not an easy process, it has never been, but there is urgency to work towards peace and prosperity for the sake of a common future.”
In talks on Friday, Vucic and Hoti held firm to their positions on Kosovo’s statehood. Vucic said talks will be “meaningless” if they focus on whether Belgrade should recognize its independence; Hoti said “mutual recognition between the two countries is the only way to normalize relations.”
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move that Belgrade refuses to recognize, and tensions have simmered ever since.
The EU-facilitated negotiations, which the Europeans say are the only way to address their membership aspirations, started in March 2011 and have produced some 30 agreements, but most of them have not been observed.
In a joint statement after Friday’s talks, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Vucic and Hoti “agreed to resume the dialogue” and to “deepen cooperation” in various areas to help rebuild trust.
The statement noted that “the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is extremely important for security and stability in the region and, beyond that, of great significance for the EU membership prospects of both countries.”