Italy urges 'full normalisation' in Kosovo-Serbia relations

Lower house of parliament convenes to elect the vice president, in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Serbia and Kosovo need to normalise their relations in full after reaching a deal that ended a two-year-old dispute on car licence plates, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday.

The West had warned that the dispute could escalate into ethnic violence, but it was eventually resolved late on Wednesday through mediation efforts from the European Union, backed by the United States.

Italy currently leads NATO's Kfor mission in Kosovo, and is its biggest contributor in terms of troop numbers.

"It is now necessary to continue on the road of dialogue and full normalisation of relations" between Belgrade and Pristina, Tajani said in a statement after phone calls with Serb and Kosovan leaders.

Tajani, who visited the two capitals on Tuesday with Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, added that "the future of the Balkans is in Europe, and Italy is ready to play a leading role in the region."

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Keith Weir)