Thursday, March 10, 2011

Serbia, Kosovo Wrap Up First Round of Talks

The first round of Belgrade-Pristina talks, which the EU mediator called "friendly but also honest", ended in Brussels on Wednesday.

The head of the Serbian negotiating team, Borko Stefanovic, said that the talks showed that there was both the capacity and readiness to solve issues.

He also pointed out that the EU mediation of the dialogue was very positive and status-neutral.

EU mediator Robert Cooper, meanwhile, said the talks opened in a "good atmosphere". He said that the two sides discussed improving the legal certainty of people living in Kosovo, including through improving civil and cadastral registers, and improving economic cooperation in the region.

He explained that the dialogue touched on issues that will be discussed in greater detail later on, such as air traffic, telecommunications and customs stamps.

The first meeting within the first round of talks was held late on Tuesday, after several hours' of uncertainty as to whether or not the Kosovo team would arrive, following extended discussions in the parliament in Pristina over the acceptable content for the negotiations.

At the meeting on Tuesday, the teams learned about each other and worked on building a degree of trust, Stefanovic said on Wednesday, commending his team for arriving in Brussels "particularly well prepared", and voicing his satisfaction with the first day of talks.

According to Stefanovic, the negotiating team concentrated on concrete problems on the agenda, first of which were land registers.

He added that the Kosovo team "attempted to impose terminological and narrative differences", and "their own interpretation of recent history", to which his team responded by "not allowing any deviations in the talks, removing differences that the other side often tried to present, and focusing on the most important issues that will bring welfare to people in Kosovo".

The Kosovo team maintained that "Kosovo's independence must not be brought into question at any cost during the dialogue with Belgrade".

"We have a constructive approach to the dialogue. There are many practical issues on the agenda and if we are creative we can overcome differences and improve the lives of people but also European processes, both for the state of Kosovo and the state of Serbia," Edita Tahiri, who heads the Pristina delegation, was quoted as saying.

Belgrade-Pristina meetings are expected to take place several times a month, depending on progress achieved, EU officials said earlier. The future meetings will focus on three main topics: regional cooperation, freedom of movement and rule of law.


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