By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have failed to come to an agreement on the status of Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, though they do not rule out an accord later this month.
After 12-long hours of difficult negotiations, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton appeared visibly tired and upset as Kosovo and Serbia didn’t reach an accord on ending ethnic partition in the EU brokered talks in Brussels.
She said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci would return home to consult colleagues and decide on future steps.
But after eight rounds of negotiations, Ashton made clear that EU patience is running out. “This is the last time we will meet formally,” she said.
“A number of proposals are put on the table and the gap between them is very narrow, but deep…They [the prime ministers] will let me know in the next few days their decision,” Ashton explained.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008.
While many countries have recognized it as an independent country, Serbia has not.
The talks focus on ending tensions over northern Kosovo. In a major concession, Serbia had offered to recognize the authority of the Kosovo government over the Serb-populated north, but it wants autonomy for the at least 50,000 Serbs living there.
However Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci remained at odds over the powers the Serb north should wield, particularly whether it would have its own judicial system and police.
While both men confirmed there were differences, they did not completely rule out an accord. Kosovo’s Prime Minister Thaci said he still hoped an agreement could be reached next week.
Serbia is under mounting pressure to normalize relations with its neighbours before it can join the European Union.
NATO peacekeepers and EU police in the region are also concerned about ethnic clashes in Kosovo.
Rights groups say Serb Orthodox churches and other religious sites have been attacked in recent months, while Serbs have been linked to violence against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority.
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