Kosovo and Serbia agree on an EU-brokered deal to end a dispute over vehicle license plates.
Kosovo and Serbia have agreed to end a long-running dispute over vehicle license plates held by the European Union warned that it could incite ethnic violence.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, announced the deal on Twitter on Wednesday.
“We have a deal,” Borrell said.
“I am very pleased to announce that the main negotiators of Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on EU facilitation measures to avoid further escalation,” he said.
Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, will now focus on a proposal from the EU on how to normalize their relationship, Borrell said.
Approximately 110 countries recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence, but Serbia, Russia, China and five EU member states do not.
The latest dispute between the Western Balkan neighbors came after the government in Pristina tried to bind its Serbian minority. change car plates from before 1999 when Kosovo was still part of Serbia.
But Serbs in northern Kosovo – who refuse to recognize Pristina’s authority and consider themselves still part of Serbia – have resisted the ban, sometimes violently.
In a sign of dissent, close to 600 police officers from Kosovo’s Serb minority, followed by judges, prosecutors and other state workers. quit their jobs earlier this month.
Despite the fierce protests, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti insisted the plan would go ahead, before announcing on Tuesday that it would delay it for two daysafter coming under pressure from the United States.
The dispute also set off alarm bells in the EU, which has been mediating talks to try to normalize ties and wants both sides to stop provocative gestures.
Borrell said on Monday that after hosting Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels for negotiations on the issue, Vucic was ready to accept a compromise but Kurti was not.
Kurti blamed Borrell for focusing only on the license plates instead of the complete normalization of relations between the neighbors.
Vucic said that Kurti was responsible for the failure of the meeting.
On Twitter on Wednesday, Borrell said that the agreement reached by both sides with Serbia was to stop issuing license plates with markings showing Kosovo cities, and that “Kosovo will stop further activities related to re-registration of vehicles “.
Borrell also said that he will invite both parties in the coming days to discuss an EU proposal, also supported by France and Germany, which will allow the enemies to normalize relations.
Washington said it welcomed Wednesday’s agreement.
“Both parties took a big step forward today, with the EU’s facilitation, towards ensuring peace and stability across the region,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department.
“We also recommend the agreement of both countries to focus fully and urgently on normalizing relations under the auspices of the EU-facilitated dialogue,” he said.
The issue of Kosovo’s independence sparked a war between 1998 and 1999 in which around 13,000 people died. Serbia launched a brutal crackdown to suppress a separatist uprising by the territory’s ethnic Albanians.
NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to end the war.
The security alliance still has around 3,700 peacekeepers on the ground to maintain the fragile peace.