Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ninth round of dialogue ends without agreement

4/18/2013 2:01:00 PM BRUSSELS - The ninth round of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on the issue of Kosovo-Metohija ended in Brussels late on Wednesday, after 15 hours of talks, without any agreement. During this round of the dialogue, in which the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also acted as an intermediary, the two sides were offered a document containing 15 points, which according to members of the Serbian delegation included much more favorable solutions for competencies of a community of Serb municipalities, which Belgrade deemed acceptable.

 Addressing the reporters following the talks, both sides voiced readiness for further talks and willingness to reach an agreement, but also used very sharp rhetoric to express divergent views on contentious issues. Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said that Belgrade was willing to accept the Brussels agreement on competencies for the community of Serb municipalities, but it was obstructed by Kosovo Prime Minister Hasim Taci. Taci linked the issue of powers in the field of police to Kosovo's membership in international organizations, including the United Nations, which the Serbian delegation could not accept, Dacic said, explaining that was not the topic of negotiations, but that issue was raised although it was not on the agenda at all. 

 The Serbian prime minister said that Taci's interpretation that Belgrade refused the agreement is not correct. “We refused that the police issue be contingent on Kosovo's membership in international organizations, but we want this process to have a positive outcome,” he concluded. Dacic said that the talks were difficult and thanked Ashton for proposals that were much more acceptable than in previous phases, noting that the positions on many issues were brought much closer. 

 “It is obvious that Pristina is not ready to go all the way and it is obstructing the talks and even threatening to resolve the issue of the north by some other methods, expecting us to react with uneasiness and opposition. Of course, it is important to listen to reason and try to reach a solution over the next few days,” said Dacic. The Kosovo prime minister told reporters in Brussels that Pristina accepted all Ashton's proposals while Belgrade rejected the agreement.

 He added that he hopes that Belgrade will change its mind. This is the third time that Serbia turns down and Kosovo accepts an agreement, Taci said, adding that an agreement cannot be reached through the logic of Vojislav Seselj, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader. Presidential Adviser Marko Djuric, a member of the Serbian delegation, told Tanjug that no agreement was reached because of obstructions by Kosovo's prime minister and his open threats of violence.

 Djuric stressed that Belgrade is willing to talk about everything, but not by using terrorist logic, adding that the dialogue may resume but a new date has not been scheduled. The EU foreign policy chief called on Belgrade and Pristina to consider the offer and see if an agreement on contentious issues can be reached until Monday, when she is submitting a report on the results of the dialogue. She said that there is still time to talk these issues out as the differences between the two sides are now "narrow and very shallow." Ashton made a sudden decision to convene the ninth round of the talks after Belgrade responded to requests to define in greater detail its proposals concerning a community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo and after both parties showed willingness to go back to the negotiating table. 

The dialogue lasted 15 hours, and after a number of separate and joint meetings, breaks, and a lot of verbal conflict and harsh words the negotiators addressed to each other, it ended without an agreement. Nevertheless, the Belgrade and Pristina delegations were given time to decide on the proposed agreement on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

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