Kosovo names envoy to Serbia under EU push to regulate ties

Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:41pm EST
 
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By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo on Wednesday named its first envoy to Serbia since the 1998-99 war which split the two countries, part of a fresh push by the European Union to resolve relations between the Balkan neighbors and cement stability in the volatile region.

Serbia and its former province have agreed in EU-mediated talks to exchange liaison officers tasked with improving communication five years after Kosovo declared independence with the backing of the West.

Kosovo's government said Lulzim Peci, currently Pristina's ambassador to Sweden, would become its "ambassador" to Serbia.

Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo as a state, is expected to name its envoy within days, though Belgrade insists neither representative will have diplomatic status. They will work out of the EU offices in Belgrade and Pristina.

The step is part of a push by the EU to nudge the two towards functional, neighborly relations, and for Serbia to drop its grip on a Serb-populated pocket of northern Kosovo.

Progress in talks mediated by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will decide how quickly the EU moves ahead with Serbia's bid to join the bloc, with Belgrade aiming to clinch a date for the start of accession talks in June.

Mired in recession and spurred by the prospect of wartime foe Croatia joining the EU in July, Serbia's six-month-old ruling coalition has offered to recognize the authority of the Kosovo government over the Serb-held north, in exchange for autonomy for the Serb minority.

Talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, resume in February.   Continued...