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EU summons Kosovo and Serbia leaders for emergency talks amid fears of a return to open conflict

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BRUSSELS, June 22 (AP): The European Union has summoned the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for emergency talks on Thursday to try to bring an end to a series of violent clashes near their border that is fuelling fears of a return to open conflict.

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that he would hold “urgent meetings” with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels. It was unclear whether the two would meet face-to-face, or only hold separate talks with Borrell.

“We need immediate de-escalation and new elections in the north with participation of Kosovo Serbs. This is paramount for the region and (the) EU,” Borrell tweeted ahead of the talks. The 27-nation bloc has for years been leading talks aimed at reconciling the two foes, but with little success.

Serbia and its former province Kosovo have been at odds for decades. Their 1998-99 conflict left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Belgrade has refused to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Tensions flared anew last month after Kosovo police seized local municipality buildings in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority, to install ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in a local election that Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted.

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Serbia has put its troops on the border on the highest state of alert amid a series of recent clashes between Kosovo Serbs on one side and Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers on the other. In recent weeks, NATO has sent in reinforcements.

The tensions persisted last week with three shock grenades exploding near Kosovo police stations in the north of the country, while Kosovo Serbs staged protests in front of municipality buildings.

Borrell had been trying for several days to try to get Kurti and Vucic to come to Brussels but they had refused until now.

Still, Vucic said that he won’t be talking to Kurti in Brussels. “I have nothing to talk to him about,” he told the state RTS broadcaster. Vucic has said there can be no negotiations until Serbs who have been arrested by Kosovo police for attacks on Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers are released.

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Just four months ago, Borrell had made things seem so promising. He exited meetings with the pair to announce that Serbia and Kosovo had given their tacit approval to a EU-sponsored plan to end months of political crises and help improve their ties longer-term.

But the “deal” unraveled almost immediately as both leaders appeared to renege on commitments that Borrell suggested they had made.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttp://www.thehillstimes.in
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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