EU warns Serbia and Kosovo over Jerusalem embassies plan

Talks resume in Brussels as Belgrade plays down ‘Basic Instinct’ spat with Russia

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

 

The European Union has warned Kosovo and Serbia over pledges they made to the United States to open embassies in Jerusalem, as leaders of the Balkan states met in Brussels for talks on establishing normal relations.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovan prime minister Avdullah Hoti arrived in Brussels from Washington, where they agreed to boost economic co-operation and signed off on several other measures advocated by the White House, including a commitment to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

The EU holds that Jerusalem’s status should be resolved through peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which potentially puts Serbia and Kosovo at odds on the issue with the bloc that they eventually hope to join.

“There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said on Monday. “Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret.”

Analysts said the Washington deals mostly reiterated existing pledges without clarifying when and how economic projects would be implemented, and did not appear to herald a breakthrough in relations between Serbia and its former province, whose 2008 independence declaration it continues to reject.

The EU says Kosovo and Serbia must establish normal ties before becoming members of the bloc, and talks on a political settlement resumed in Brussels.

Officials said Mr Vucic and Mr Hoti discussed issues related to internally displaced people and more than 1,500 people who are still listed as missing after a 1998-1999 war between Belgrade’s forces and rebels from Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority.

Ethnic minorities

They also opened talks related to ethnic minorities – with the status of Kosovo’s Serb community being a key issue for Belgrade – and on contentious financial and property claims arising from the war.

The EU’s envoy to the negotiations, Miroslav Lajcak, said they “were intense, as usual, and not always easy, but what prevailed was the will of both sides to advance the discussions despite the painful and complex issues at hand”.

Mr Vucic played down a spat on Monday between Belgrade and its ally Moscow over social media comments made by Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

She posted a photo of a seated Mr Vucic facing US president Donald Trump at the White House, beside a photo of actor Sharon Stone sitting cross-legged in a famous scene from 1992 thriller Basic Instinct.

“If you’re invited to the White House and they’ve put the chair there as if you’re being interrogated, sit like in photo number two. No matter who you are,” Ms Zakharova wrote.

Mr Vucic said the post revealed her “primitivism and vulgarity” but he later insisted that there was “no conflict” with Russia, which supports Serbia’s refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo.