A mutual trade embargo between Serbia and Kosovo has been lifted, paving the way for goods to flow freely through the two countries. The EU, which mediated the talks, says the deal makes the region look more European.
Serbia and Kosovo's border remains under NATO control
Serbia and its former province Kosovo on Friday reached an agreement to end a mutual trade embargo during European Union-mediated talks in Brussels.
The EU described the agreement, under which the two sides will allow products from each other's territories to pass freely, as an important step towards improving bilateral relations.
"These two embargoes will now be lifted," said EU facilitator Robert Cooper. "That's good for regional trade; that makes the region look more European."
The agreement is to come into effect within the next week.
The EU had suspended the talks back in July after Belgrade refused to accept a Kosovo customs seal. Friday's compromise will see Kosovo officials mark goods with a stamp that simply says "Kosovo customs," with no national coat of arms or flag.
Serbia had refused to accept a stamp with Kosovo's national symbols, fearing this would be interpreted as the de facto recognition of what it still sees as a renegade province.
Violence near the border in July killed one ethnic Albanian
Border crossings still unresolved
The head of the Serbian delegation, Borislav Stefanovic, said the agreement applied only to the transit of people and goods but not to the status of the border crossings in the north of Kosovo.
The Jarinje and Brnjak border posts have been controlled by German and Austrian peacekeepers since shortly after the July talks broke down.
Belgrade banned the import of goods from Kosovo shortly after it declared independence from Serbia in 2008. In June, Kosovo retaliated by imposing a ban on the import of Serbian goods and sent security forces to take control of the country's border posts in the mainly Serb north of the country. Clashes with local Serbs earlier this summer resulted in the death of one ethnic Albanian before the NATO troops took control of the crossings.
During Friday's sixth round of talks, which are meant to resolve practical, day-to-day issues, the two sides also reached an agreement on sharing property records, as well as discussing telecommunications, energy and university diplomas.
Author: Chuck Penfold (Reuters, AP)
Editor: Andrew Bowen