Serbian President Boris Tadic on Saturday confirmed that a deal has been struck to defuse a Kosovo border dispute. Belgrade had been under intense pressure ahead of a summit to give Serbia official EU candidate status.
The roadblocks have been a recurring source of violence
The president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, has officially confirmed that an agreement has been reached with Kosovo to jointly manage disputed border crossings along their common frontier.
"There is a solution that we agreed on the boundaries," Tadic said in Berlin on the margins of an international conference hosted by Germany's Social Democratic Party.
On Friday, Belgrade's chief negotiator, Borislav Stefanovic, had told the Tanjug news agency "we still need to put the dot on the 'i'."
Stefanovic's comments came just hours after the European Union's foreign affairs office, which has been sponsoring talks between Serbia and Kosovo, announced that there was agreement.
Tadic said it was important that the deal can be implemented, adding that he was "totally sure this is possible."
Tadic referred to the line as a "boundary," because Serbia still views Kosovo as part of its territory and refuses to recognize a "border."
Tadic said a deal has been reached
The Kosovo delegation also said the agreement was a done deal.
"We finally reached an agreement on an integrated management of border crossings. Both sides agreed to implement the European model on all six crossings," said Edita Tahiri, Kosovo's chief negotiator.
But, the two sides interpret the deal differently. Tahiri said the two sides would be represented on equal footing at the border crossings, implying that Belgrade has recognized Pristina's authority.
Stefanovic, however, spoke of Kosovo's "observers" at the border.
The border crossings have been a smoldering source of tension since Kosovo's ethnic Albanian central government sent its security forces to take control of the crossings on its northern border in July. Ethnic Serbs, who are predominant in northern Kosovo, set up roadblocks that cut off the roads to the border crossings.
Last Monday, 30 German and Austrian soldiers - part of NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) - were wounded in clashes with Serbs when the soldiers tried to dismantle the roadblocks.
Long road to Europe
Belgrade has been under intense pressure to reach a compromise to defuse the border dispute, with the European Union set to vote on whether Serbia should be granted status as a candidate for membership during a summit meeting on December 9.
Serbia has recently stepped up its campaign to join the EU, arresting alleged war criminals such as Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic earlier this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has placed Serbia's potential EU candidate status in question in the aftermath of the clashes.
Merkel said Friday that Serbia "stands accused of contributing in recent days to an atmosphere where German peacekeepers in the north of Kosovo have been attacked with guns and wounded," adding that the incident was "not acceptable."
The chancellor went on to say that Serbia could only join the EU "through the normalization of its relations with Kosovo" and that "Serbia has so far not lived up to these expectations sufficiently."
Belgrade lost control of Kosovo in 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign was launched to stop alleged war crimes committed by Serbs against ethnic Albanians. In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia, though Belgrade still considers Kosovo a Serbian province.
More than 80 countries have now recognized Kosovo as an independent state, including the United States and most members of the European Union.
Author: Gregg Benzow, Chuck Penfold (Reuters, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler