( dpa ) - European Union foreign ministers were expected on Monday to make a compromise offer to Serbia highlighting its future as a potential EU member, after talks on signing a pre-membership deal ended in deadlock, diplomats said.
"The Stabilization and Association Agreement won't be signed in the coming days but this doesn't mean that our policy has changed. We want to send a signal that our hand is stretched out to Serbia," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters in Brussels.
Ahead of the meeting of the EU's 27 foreign minister, top EU officials had urged member states to sign the SAA - a document which paves the way for membership talks - as a "strong signal" of support for pro-Western forces in Serbia ahead of closely-contested presidential elections in the Balkan state.
However, the Netherlands and Belgium vetoed that suggestion, saying that they would only sign the SAA when Serbia delivered wanted war-crimes suspects to The Hague tribunal.
Following the veto, EU foreign ministers turned to a compromise text which would make their support for Serbia's EU future clear without giving up the key demand on war-crimes suspects.
Sources close to the debate said that the idea was to write a text which would make it clear that the EU sees Serbia as a future full member, and which the EU and Serbia would both sign next week - just after the critical election.
"It's an offer made to the Serbs before the election and confirmed afterwards," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.