Explained: What is Serbia-Kosovo peace deal to normalize ties?

Serbia and Kosovo have reached ‘some kind of a deal’ on implementing a Western-backed deal to normalize ties, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday. The two sides have agreed on some points, but not on all points, according to the news agency Reuters. 

Speaking to media persons in Ohrid, Vucic said, “We have agreed on some points, not on all points. This is not the final deal. Despite disagreements on some issues, talks with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti were decent.»

He said Serbia’s path towards EU membership will be conditioned on implementing the deal.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti earlier said that he accepted a proposed European Union plan aimed at normalizing relations with Serbia despite concerns over Western demands to give more rights to local Serbs that have so far hindered a peace deal.

Serbia-Kosovo peace deal

In January, Western envoys told Kosovo and Serbia they should state whether they accept an 11-point plan meant to defuse tensions lingering since the 1998-99 war or face repercussions from the EU and the United States.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a guerrilla uprising against Belgrade’s rule. Over the past decade, the two have been holding normalization talks under EU mediation, with their success key for Pristina’s and Belgrade’s aspirations to join the wealthy bloc.

The 11-point plan calls for the implementation of past deals, including the creation of an association of semi-autonomous Serb-majority municipalities that Kurti has opposed, saying it would effectively partition the country along ethnic lines, a criticism rejected by Western mediators.

The proposed 11-point deal would not require Serbia to recognize the independence of its former province, but Belgrade would have to stop lobbying against Kosovo’s membership in international bodies, as per Reuters report. 

Kurti said he might be willing to take into consideration the formation of the association, but only if it complied with Kosovo’s constitution and was not based solely on ethnic grounds.

Kosovo in 2013 pledged to give more autonomy to local Serbs, who refuse to recognize its 2008 independence, through such an association as part of a peace deal. However, Kosovo’s highest court said some parts of the deal violated the constitution and should be changed before it takes effect.

The two countries would also have to open representative offices in each other’s capitals and work on resolving outstanding issues. Ethnic Serbs account for around 100,000 of Kosovo’s 1.8-million population, with about half of them living in the north of the country and most refusing to recognize Pristina’s authority.

Vucic told earlier parliament that Western envoys warned Belgrade that if Serbia did not accept the proposal, its EU membership talks would be halted and access to pre-accession funds and investments denied.


(With Reuters inputs)

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