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Serbia, Kosovo fail to reach agreement, announce further negotiations

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo failed to resolve differences fueling tension between the estranged Balkan neighbours during talks on Thursday, but they agreed to resume discussions ahead of a September 1 deadline that could stoke further unrest.

‘It is in no Balkans country’s interest to raise arms at the moment’

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“Unhappily, we did not get to an agreement today,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after several hours of closed-door talks in Brussels between Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. “Both leaders agreed that the process needs to continue and the discussion will resume in the coming days,” he added.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared this month when Pristina said it would oblige Serbs living in the north, who are backed by Belgrade and do not recognise Kosovo institutions, to start using car licence plates issued by Kosovo.

The situation calmed after Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, under US and EU pressure, agreed to postpone the ruling until September 1 and NATO peacekeepers oversaw the removal of roadblocks set up by Serbs.

“There is still time…I do not give up,” Mr Borrell said after the talks that were facilitated by the EU.

Mr Vučić had been expected to brief the media after the meeting in Brussels, but the head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo and Metohija said he would only comment on the meeting after returning to Belgrade on Friday.

Over a decade-long dispute
Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a guerrilla uprising against repressive Belgrade rule.

Serbia legally still considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory. It denies whipping up tensions and conflict there, and accuses Pristina of trampling on the rights of minority Serbs. Ethnic Serbs account for 5 percent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

BREAKING: NATO says it will increase its military presence if tensions between Serbia and Kosovo escalate

— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) August 17, 2022
NATO increases its presence
NATO has increased the presence of its Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeepers in the north of the country, and Reuters footage on Thursday showed U.S. and Polish troops patrolling two roads leading to the border with Serbia.

A NATO spokesperson said the change was aimed at ensuring peacekeepers could react swiftly to any security challenges.

“We would like to assure everyone that KFOR is ready to intervene if necessary,” the spokesperson said.

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