Kosovo and Serbia leaders called to Brussels to reduce tensions

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Kosovo and Serbia leaders were invited to Brussels for talks with their European counterparts on calming tensions, an EU spokesman said on Wednesday on the eve of their visit.

It comes just days after a European Union envoy, as well as diplomats from the United States, France, Germany and Italy visited both Belgrade and Pristina, for top-level talks over the issue.

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A shooting in Kosovo’s volatile north last month near the border with Serbia that killed a police officer triggered one of the worst escalations in years in the ethnic Albanian-majority former Serbian breakaway province.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti were invited to Brussels for a “series of individual meetings with certain EU leaders”, EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told reporters.

Their bilateral meeting is not planned, he said.

The meetings with EU leaders will be held on the sidelines of a bloc’s summit in “support of going back to the dialogue” on normalization of ties, Stano said. “This is the main message of the EU.”

The 27-nation EU, with the support of international partners, expects both sides “to immediately and unconditionally start working on de-escalation ... (and) re-engaging in the dialogue”, Stano added.

Meanwhile, Kurti accepted the meetings in Brussels during last Saturday’s talks with the five diplomats where they proposed a new plan, a government statement said.

The plan includes a “more complete package of comprehensive implementation of the basic agreement” reached under EU sponsorship in February, it said without elaborating.

Vucic said on Tuesday that he planned to visit Brussels in the “next few days”. He vowed to “protect Serbia from all possible (sanction) measures and the collapse of our national interests”.

Tensions had been high in Kosovo’s north for months, after Pristina’s decision in May to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities.

That followed a Serb boycott of the local elections a month earlier.

The September 24 clash in the north was the latest of a series of incidents since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade and key allies China and Russia still refuse to recognize the move.

Animosity between Kosovo and Serbia has persisted since a war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in the late 1990s that drew NATO intervention against Belgrade.

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EU and US envoys urge Kosovo and Serbia to resume dialogue in order to defuse tension

Russia blames Kosovo government for deadly clash near Serbian border

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