Kosovo rejects talk of partition deal with Serbia

Some Belgrade officials eye chance of reclaiming northern Kosovo

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said he wanted an agreement with Kosovo that would “end this cycle of conflicts forever”. Photograph: Koca Sulejmanovic/EPA

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said he wanted an agreement with Kosovo that would “end this cycle of conflicts forever”. Photograph: Koca Sulejmanovic/EPA

 

Kosovo has warned against any bid to divide it along ethnic lines as part of a deal to secure recognition of its independence from Serbia.

Kosovo broke away from Belgrade’s rule during a 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian separatist rebels and Serbian government forces, and it declared independence in 2008 after nine years of United Nations administration.

Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to recognise Kosovo’s sovereignty, however, and the European Union is brokering talks between the Balkan states to normalise their relations and allow them to move towards membership of the bloc.

Some Serbian officials have suggested partitioning Kosovo, and giving northern, mostly Serb-inhabited areas back to Belgrade, in return for its acceptance of the more than 90 per cent ethnic Albanian country’s independence.

Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dacic said he discussed the idea of dividing the territory of Kosovo, which has a population of two million, during talks in Washington last week. “The model of partition or delimitation is a proposal that I have pointed at as a solution . . . now all cards are on the table,” he said.

‘Pandora’s box’

His Kosovo counterpart, Behgjet Pacolli, rejected any such plan on Wednesday, warning that it would open a “Pandora’s box” of territorial claims in a region still recovering from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

“I’m convinced that such a solution would be wrong for many reasons . . . the idea would be abused with huge unrest as a result,” Serbia’s N1 news service quoted him as saying.

President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci on Tuesday also dismissed any partition proposal. “I want to assure the people of Kosovo that there will be no force that will make Kosovo . . . agree to partition,” he said.

Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, who, like Mr Thaci, was a rebel commander during the 1998-1999 conflict, said earlier this month: “Division for me is war. I say this without hesitation and it is dangerous to talk about division.”

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has stated that he does not expect western powers to allow the division of Kosovo, but last week he also said that “it’s better to get something than nothing” from a final deal on relations with Pristina.

Cycle of conflicts

Mr Vucic told Serbian television on Wednesday that he wanted an agreement with Kosovo that would “end this cycle of conflicts forever”.

“We are trying to preserve our holy places in Kosovo . . . and get more than was written in all the [agreement] plans so far,” he said, without giving details.

Any deal on Kosovo would be put to the Serbian people for final approval in a referendum, he added.

Nato peacekeepers still serve in Kosovo and on Tuesday James Foggo, a senior commander of the alliance, said that “every time we talk about controversial political solutions to problems in the Balkans there is potential for unrest”.

“Some people tend to take their disagreements on to the street. I strongly recommend that they do not do it or, if they do, to do so peacefully,” the Kossev news outlet quoted him as saying during a visit to Pristina.

“We will be here to support the institutions of Kosovo in maintaining a safe and secure environment during this month . . . and the rest of the year.”