Serbian leader defiant after Kosovo talks end in Brussels
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic triggered accusations of bad faith from Kosovo's leader on Wednesday after he vowed never to recognise Pristina and refused to sign an EU-backed deal aimed at normalising ties between the rivals.
The European Union had raised hopes of a breakthrough in hosting the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia on Monday while pressuring them to iron out a pathway for an agreement that would lead to "de-facto" normalisation of ties.
Despite vows that a deal was close at hand, the talks in Brussels ended late Monday in a stalemate with both sides blaming the other and insisting many issues remained unresolved that would prevent an agreement.
Vucic took to the airwaves late Tuesday where the president told viewers he would never recognise Kosovo and had no plans to help clear their way to United Nations membership.
"As long as I am president, I will not sign or accept either formal or informal recognition of Kosovo or Kosovo joining the United Nations," Vucic said during a televised interview.
Serbia refuses to recognise the unilateral declaration of independence Kosovo made in 2008, and bouts of unrest erupt between local authorities and the Serb minority in the former breakaway province.
The latest round of talks followed months of shuttle diplomacy, nearly 25 years after the war between ethnic Albanian insurgents and Serb forces triggered a NATO bombing campaign that ended the fighting.
- 'Open to everything else' -
On Wednesday, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti fired back at Vucic, saying the Serbian president's promise to block Kosovo's path to the UN was a clear violation of the EU-proposed deal.
"Normalization of relations is possible only if both parties negotiate in good faith. Serbia has apparently decided not to do so," Kurti wrote on Twitter.
Vucic said he was up for hammering out other issues, but onlyafter Pristina createdthe Association of Serb Majority Municipalities that would provide Serbs with a degree of autonomy within Kosovo.
"I am open to everything else, not just because it will push us further up the EU path, but because it is good for relations between Serbs and Albanians," he said.
Before Monday's meeting, a senior European diplomat said the parties had already accepted the then-unpublished European plan, and that Monday's meeting was to discuss implementation.
However, afterwards Kurti and Vucic railed against the other for the meeting ending in acrimony.
Nevertheless, EU officials published the previously secret European peace plan, drawn up in Paris and Berlin that holds the key to both Pristina's and Belgrade's hopes to one day join the bloc.
Kosovo and Serbia leaders are set to meet in North Macedonia on March 18 for the next round of talks under EU supervision.