Serbia-Kosovo peace deal is possible, Vucic says

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addresses the nation in Belgrade

By Elizabeth Pineau and Johnny Cotton

PARIS (Reuters) - Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that efforts by Germany and France to restart talks between his country and Kosovo were already paying off and he was hopeful of a peace deal, although he could not say when.

"No one can guarantee what will happen at the end of the process, but this is the first relatively optimistic news," Vucic said of an agreement on a timetable for talks to break the deadlock over one of Europe's trickiest territorial disputes.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 1999 after a NATO-led bombing campaign to curtail ethnic warfare. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's independence, a precondition for Belgrade's future membership of the EU.

Talks between Serbia and Kosovo broke down almost two years ago.

Vucic, speaking in an interview in Paris after a video conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, said he wanted to find a way to reconcile Serbs, Kosovars and Albanians still scarred by the wars of the 1990s.

"I don't care if it happens in a month or in two years," he said regarding a possible peace deal.

Discussions between Vucic and Hoti on normalising ties will resume on Sunday via video conference, a German government statement said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Miroslav Lajcak, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, will lead talks on Sunday before a physical meeting with Macron, Merkel and possibly other leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

A U.S.-led initiative in late June aimed to bring Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci to the White House but Thaci has been indicted on war crimes charges that he is alleged to have committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war and its aftermath.

Thaci has denied the accusations. [nL8N2E637J][nL8N2EF5C6]

(Writing by Robin Emmott, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Angus MacSwan)

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