Kosovo to hold first talks with Serbia since independence

Kosovo will tomorrow hold its first face-to-face talks with Serbia since declaring independence three years ago after insurgency and ethnic cleansing left 10,000 people dead and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The meeting in Brussels between senior officials will include discussions on the fate of 1,800 people still missing from the 1998-99 conflict and other complex humanitarian issues.

Serbia has said that it will never recognise the independence of Kosovo but observers see the meeting as an opportunity for reconciliation despite obvious tensions that remain between Albanians and Serbs.

The two sides agreed to the EU-sponsored talks last year to improve the lives of all those in Kosovo – two million ethnic Albanians and a tiny Serb minority – where unemployment stands at 50 per cent and many people are living in grinding poverty.

"We joined this process not to play a game of poker where one side will win and the other will lose, but to solve the problems of people," said Belgrade negotiator Borko Stefanovic.

But he added his team would not cross the "clearly defined" lines regarding Serbia's refusal to accept Kosovo's independence.

Serbia goes into the talks hoping to improve its international image, scarred by atrocities committed during the conflict in Kosovo when Serbia was run by Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes at The Hague.

Serbia has come under heavy pressure from the EU to enter negotiations with the former province that Serbia claims as the historic birthplace of the Serb people.

Serbia still refuses to allow any exports from Kosovo to pass through its territory and its stance has infuriated the EU as Serbia seeks to join the 27-nation bloc. Serbia is also under pressure because of its failure to arrest the most wanted war criminal, General Ratko Mladic.

Financial pressures are more pressing for Kosovo where hardship is causing concerns about rising criminality and dependence on the drugs trade for men unable to find work.

"We're ready to enter the talks in a positive spirit and show creativity, without going into the issues of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Kosovo's negotiator Edita Tahiri, who was in Washington for talks with the Obama administration. "There is enough space between our red lines and the red lines of the other side." Both the EU and the US are firmly behind the talks. The US was the driving force behind the creation of Kosovo which was steadfastly opposed by Serbia's ally, Russia. Kosovo is, however, now officially recognised by 75 other nations.

Details of the talks agenda have not emerged but the two-day meeting is likely to deal with the issue of the 1,821 missing people from the war – 1,299 of them ethnic Albanians and 522 Kosovo Serbs, most of them civilians.

Their fate is unknown since the time of Milosevic's drive to repress the rebellious ethnic Albanians and their Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1998 and particularly 1999, when Nato launched air strikes against Serbia. The attacks were launched to try to end the ethnic cleansing by the Milosevic regime in what was known as the world's first humanitarian war.

The bombing forced the withdrawal of Serb security forces from Kosovo in June 1999, with members of the KLA – described as a "terrorist group" by the Serbs – targeting Kosovo Serbs in reprisal attacks during the chaos.

The talks come at a time of weakness for Kosovo's leadership after a report by the Council of Europe cited current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci as heading a group of rebel fighters who were involved in organised crime and organ trafficking. The organs, according to the report by investigator Dick Marty, were allegedly harvested from captured Serbs and other nationals in the aftermath of the Nato air campaign. Victims were taken to a village in neighbouring Albania where they were killed, according to the report. Mr Thaci, who was known as the KLA leader "Snake", has strongly denied the allegations, but the Council of Europe has called for an international investigation.

Other issues likely to be discussed include living conditions for the small Serb minority of fewer than 100,000 people living in Kosovo.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness