Croatia Says Willing to Help Revive Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor says Zagreb is willing to help Kosovo and Serbia resume a dialogue to resolve tensions between the Balkan neighbors.

Ms. Kosor made the offer Wednesday after talks with her Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, in Pristina. She is the first Croatian prime minister to visit Kosovo since it unilaterally seceded from Serbia in 2008, a move that Belgrade has rejected. Ms. Kosor said Croatia will try to bring the two sides back to negotiations because her nation considers itself to be a “leader” in the region.

A trade dispute between Serbia and Kosovo erupted into violence last month, when Pristina banned Serbian imports in retaliation for Belgrade's ban on the entry of Kosovo products.

Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian government sent security forces to ethnic Serb-dominated northern Kosovo to enforce the ban, but Kosovo Serb residents resisted the move. An exchange of fire between the two sides killed one ethnic Albanian policeman and wounded several other people. NATO peacekeepers stepped in to restore order.

Serbia has said it plans to resume talks with Kosovo about the trade dispute on September 2 in Brussels.

Speaking in Pristina, Croatian Prime Minister Kosor said her nation considers itself Kosovo's best friend in southeastern Europe. She said that friendship developed from the two nations' shared experience in fighting for independence from Serbia's former leader, Slobodan Milosevic, whom she called a “tyrant.”

Ms. Kosor was leading a delegation of Croatian entrepreneurs seeking a share of the Kosovo market following its ban on Serbian products.

In another development, a Serbian official has rejected a call by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for Serbia to abolish its remaining institutions in northern Kosovo. Ms. Merkel made the appeal Tuesday in talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic in Belgrade. The German chancellor also told Mr. Tadic that Serbia's hope of gaining entry into the European Union depends on progress in negotiations with Kosovo.

Serbian Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic said Wednesday that Serbian institutions in northern Kosovo are essential for the survival of the ethnic Serb minority in the region. He said the German demand to abandon the post offices, schools and municipal administrations is unacceptable.

Mr. Tadic said the European Union should not issue an ultimatum to Serbia on Kosovo, but rather a compromise.