By Bojana Barlovac
An EU negotiator is set to visit Kosovo and Serbia, but no consensus is emerging between the two sides on whether future talks should include the Serb-run North Kosovo enclave.
Robert Cooper, EU facilitator for Kosovo dialogue, is scheduled to arrive in Belgrade on Thursday on a tough mission to build bridges between Serbia and its ex-province.
A Brussels source said Cooper aims to persuade the two sides to continue their dialogue on such issues as telecommunications, energy, Kosovo’s participation in regional organisations and the implementation of agreements reached in the dialogue so far.
“If the two sides express willingness to talk about the [Serb-run] North [of Kosovo], the EU will be happy to include it,” the source told Balkan Insight.
The EU-mediated dialogue, scheduled to continue between representatives of Serbia and Kosovo in Brussels last Wednesday, was postponed after the Serbian delegation demanded to discuss the issue of northern Kosovo.
Serbia remains angry about Kosovo’s decision to post customs officials on border posts between Kosovo and Serbia.
The decision led to violent scenes in the north on September 28, as hundreds of Kosovo Serb protesters tried to breach a security barrier manned by NATO peacekeepers in KFOR on the Jarinje border crossing.
NATO peacekeepers said they were forced to respond to indiscriminate acts of violence when shots were fired in the direction of KFOR personnel and explosive devices were thrown at KFOR soldiers. Sixteen people were reported injured.
There is no consensus as yet between Belgrade and Pristina on whether the problems in northern Kosovo should be formally discussed between the two sides, however.
“The issue of northern Kosovo is of great importance and we are ready to talk about everything, as we have shown several times before,” Borislav Stefanovic, Serbia’s negotiator in the Kosovo talks, said.
Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s Prime Minister, told Radio Free Europe on Wednesday that he remained open to the idea of dialogue but declined to commit himself to talk about the north of Kosovo with Serbia. Kosovo blames Serbia for the unrest in the north.
The two sides should gradually come to “an understanding… in Pristina and Belgrade about good neighbourly agreements and reciprocal recognition,” Thaci said.
In Belgrade, Cooper is supposed to meet Stefanovic, Goran Bogdanovic, minister for Kosovo and Ivica Dacic, the interior minister. The EU facilitator is heading to Pristina on Monday.