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Serbian president won't meet Kosovar counterpart

HOPES  of a breakthrough in talks between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo were dashed today when Belgrade’s President Aleksandar Vucic refused to meet his counterpart Hashim Thaci.

Serbian negotiator Marko Djuric explained Mr Vucic’s refusal to walk out of the European Union-backed talks, citing recent “threats and deceits”" by Mr Thaci’s government.

He said “minimum conditions to talk to the representatives of Pristina” do not exist.

The dispute between Serbia and Kosovo dates back to 1998-99 during the EU-masterminded break-up of Yugoslavia, when Nato warplanes blitzed government forces, obliging then president Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo.

Pristina declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognised as a state by more than 100 countries, not including Serbia. EU countries Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain also do not recognise the breakaway.

Tensions remain high in northern Kosovo, where many ethnic Serbs still live.

The EU has reported that hopes of a reconciliation breakthrough were relatively high after a territory swap was suggested to normalise bilateral relations.

Both states have indicated their intention of joining the EU and been told to patch up their differences as a precondition for doing so.

EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini acknowledged that “difficulties remain.”

She expressed hope that both leaders will “continue the process and reach in the coming months a legally binding agreement on comprehensive normalisation of relations, in line with international law.”

Some EU states fear border changes could trigger similar demands elsewhere in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

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