Hopes of Deal on Border Crossings at Serbia-Kosovo Talks

The premiers of Serbia and Kosovo hold a third round of EU-brokered talks over a working dinner Tuesday amid hopes of a deal to ease tension along their flashpoint border.

Talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci will be hosted, as previously, by European Union foreign policy head Catherine Ashton.

"There is hope of an agreement after working groups made good progress on the crossings," said an EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. "Now there is a need for political confirmation from the leaders."

The two met in the first encounter between leaders of Kosovo and Serbia on October 19, and again on November 7, each time with Ashton.

Sources said the pair would consider a deal to share the management of four border crossings, stating how many officers from each side would be at each gate and how they would share out work.

With Belgrade refusing to recognize Pristina's unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, also at stake would be how to mark the crossing points. "Probably there will be no flags," a diplomat said.

The EU is offering to draw both sides closer to the 27-nation bloc if they cooperate on issues such as security and trade in order to move towards a normalization of ties while resolving daily headaches for ordinary people.

A series of agreements struck by more junior negotiators in the EU-run talks that kicked off in March 2011 included deals such as the mutual recognition of university degrees and the return of property records.

Border management has been a tricky issue however, particularly in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs refuse to recognize the authority of Pristina.

Dacic described the last talks in November as a "good and useful meeting. I believe that we made several steps forward" -- while Kosovo's Thaci said they took place "in a constructive spirit" with a "substantial debate."

Also on the agenda will be a proposal for each side to name a liaison officer in the other's capital, funds sent to Serbians in northern Kosovo and problems linked to energy and telecoms.

The EU-mediated dialogue was initiated in hopes of easing problems such as Kosovo's lack of a telephone country code.

Source: Agence France Presse

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