EU hails start of Kosovo-Serbia talks
The European Union hailed Tuesday the start of talks it is brokering between Serbia and Kosovo, overlooking logistical snags which caused the event to be delayed a few hours, dpa reported.
The EU wants the two sides to concentrate on day-to-day problems and sidestep major diplomatic issues such as the status of Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia which Belgrade does not recognize.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton "believes now is the right time to begin and she is confident that both Belgrade and Pristina can find practical ways to make sure that ordinary life can go on more smoothly," her spokesman said in a statement.
Progress is expected to be difficult, but the aim of both sides to join the EU obliges them to normalize relations, while giving the bloc some leverage to extract concessions from them.
Serb chief negotiator Borislav Stefanovic said it was "illusory" to think that the two sides' opposing views on Kosovo's status could be reconciled, so it was good to discuss other matters.
"We will try to use this agenda to have fast results to enable our region to continue on its European path. Of course it will not be easy, there will be many ups and downs, nobody should expect miracles," he cautioned.
His Kosovan counterpart, Deputy Premier Edita Tahiri, agreed that "creativity" could "help improve the lives of people but also advance the European agenda for both states."
She stressed negotiations were between "the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia," while Stevanovic avoided references to sovereignty, talking about starting a "dialogue with Pristina."
Talks started shortly after 7 pm (1800 GMT), and were set to continue into Wednesday. Follow-up meetings were expected to be held roughly every two weeks, an EU diplomat said.
The start of proceedings was delayed by several hours, as EU sources explained that Tahiri was late because a Kosovo parliament debate running longer than expected caused her to miss the flight she was planning to take out of Pristina late on Monday.
With its 90-per cent Albanian majority, Kosovo was the scene of a war for independence from Serbia in 1998-99, which eventually drew NATO to oust Belgrade's security forces from the province.
After the conflict, the territory was governed by the United Nations until it declared independence in 2008, winning recognition by the United States and the majority of EU states, while Belgrade vowed to continue fighting the secession.