International pressure for a settlement between Serbia and Kosovo is growing, the Serb president said in a meeting with the Russian ambassador. High-ranking US politicians have also visited Belgrade and Kosovo in recent days to discuss relations between the two sides, and Brussels has also intensified its activity in order to reach a comprehensive agreement between the Serbs and Kosovo.
By the end of 2022, Serbia and Kosovo drifted to the brink of war. Local Serbs erected roadblocks and demanded the release of their fellow nationals from prison. The situation was resolved when Pristina authorities released former policeman Dejan Pantic from prison and placed him into house arrest. As V4NA also reported, the Serbs dismantled the barricades after the move, and tensions between the two parties seemed to have eased. However, the thorn has remained between the Serbs and the Albanians, because even though Kosovo undertook in the Brussels Agreement to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities, it has not happened for a decade. The scheme would guarantee self-determination to the local Serbs, who are in minority in the region.
Stife upon strife
This has not been the only source of tension between the two sides in the past months, and the situation carried the threat of another war erupting. The international community seems to have lost patience, as the West does not want another armed conflict in Europe. In the past few days, an increasing number of Western diplomats visited the Serbian capital and Pristina to mediate between the two parties and discuss the possibilities of a compromise.
Derek Chollet, counselor to the US State Department, also paid a personal visit to both Pristina and Belgrade in the last few days.
After the visits, the Serb president stressed that the White House representative showed respect towards Serbia and was also open to hear Serbia’s requirements. It is abundantly clear for all that the events unfolding recently in Kosovo are a consequence of Pristina’s unilateral actions, President Vucic added. Despite the atmosphere of understanding, Belgrade has no illusions: the United States will not change its policy regarding Kosovo, Mr Vucic said.
“We discussed the rights of the Serbian community. But there is another important element, which we do not even need to mention here, which they all know. And this is that everything that happened in Kosovo is the result of Pristina’s unilateral actions. There was not a single incident, not a single negative event that was caused by Serbia, everything was forced by Pristina,” President Vucic said.
German-French proposal for resolution
Mr Vucic expressed his gratitude to the American delegation for Washington demanding the implementation of the already signed agreements from Pristina. The Serbian president also discussed the German-French settlement proposal, which can now be considered a European plan. According to press reports, it does not require Belgrade to recognise the territory’s independence, but the Serbs must guarantee that they will not prevent Pristina’s membership in international organisations, and that they would both mutually accept documents issued by the other.
The rest of the proposal calls for the two parties to open a permanent representation on each other’s territory, and the document supports the accession of both countries to the EU, but also states that neither party may represent the other in the international arena, nor act on the other’s behalf.
Pristina should also formalise the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and provide strong protection for Serbian religious and cultural heritage and church property. According to the plan, Kosovo must give self-determination to the Serbs, and Pristina cannot prevent Belgrade from financially supporting the Serbs there.
Russia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence
However, it isn’t just the West that Serbia is negotiating with regarding the issue. Aleksandar Vucic also discussed the Kosovo issue with Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Bocan-Harchenko. Serbia’s president informed the Russian diplomat about the strengthening of international diplomatic activities surrounding the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, reads a press release by the presidential office.
At the meeting, the head of state confirmed that Serbia will continue to be a defender of peace and stability in the region, which is fighting for the continued recognition of international law. Mr Bocan-Harchenko confirmed that Russia’s position is the same, it consistently stands by Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.