Serbia, Kosovo strike normalization deal: EU official
BRUSSELS, Belguim (2nd UPDATE) - The premiers of Serbia and Kosovo on Friday initialled a historic deal to normalize ties in a move key to the future of the Western Balkans, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"These negotiations have been concluded," Ashton said. "The text has been initialled by both prime ministers."
"What we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe," Ashton said after winding up the talks with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci.
The EU has brokered two years of talks aimed at easing mutual tensions following Serbia's continued refusal to recognise Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence.
The talks between the two premiers, crucial to their future ties with the EU, were the second in Brussels this week. They hurried back on Ashton's request less than 48 hours after the collapse of earlier talks to clinch a deal.
Speaking at the close of the negotiations, Dacic said: "Serbia's proposals were accepted. I initialled a proposed text that both sides will decide upon in the following days to say whether they accept it or refuse it."
Thaci said there would be further talks next Friday.
"The agreement will help us heal the wounds of the past," Thaci said. "It represents a new era of reconciliation."
The two premiers held talks later with NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the alliance's Kosovo force, KFOR, plays a key role in ensuring security in the breakaway province.
"I am very happy for NATO to contribute to the conclusion of an historic agreement," Rasmussen said.
"It has been a long process, but ultimately successful," he added in a statement. "NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo." -Rappler.com