Serbia-Kosovo talks stalled amid tensions



It was expected that negotiations between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo to resolve their relations would continue in Brussels this month, but as tensions escalated following the controversial arrest of a senior Serbian official, the talks have been put on hold again.

The Kosovo connection

Very similar to the situation in Syria today, back in 1999, Western allies decided to bombard the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The reason behind the attack was the incident at the village of Racak in Kosovo, allegedly committed by the Serbian forces against the unarmed Albanian civilians.

Serbia's government building in Belgrade. /CGTN Photo

As a result of that 78-day long bombardment campaign, Kosovo broke away from Serbia and in 2008 unilaterally declared independence. By today Kosovo is recognized by only the half of the world's nations and tensions with Serbia doesn't show any signs of easing.

Stalled negotiations – tensions flared

Back in 2012 the Serbian government created the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, which is the main official body of Serbia, in charge of everything dealing with the breakaway Serbian province. That includes and negotiations with the Kosovo leadership over the normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

But these days, its employees do not have to conduct many negotiations, since all talks with Kosovo are put on hold after the violent arrest of Serbian chief negotiator Marko Djuric, on March 26 in the northern Serbian part of Kosovo.

Kosovar police officers scuffle with Kosovar Serb protesters in northern Mitrovica after the arrest of a senior Serbian official, March 26, 2018. /VCG Photo

After the arrest, Kosovo's special police took him to the capital Pristina and paraded him through the streets in a very humiliating manner. He was released the same evening but tensions flared with the danger of erupting into serious conflict.

According to numerous eyewitnesses and YouTube videos, Serbian Air Force fighter jets were seen in low flyovers along the administrative lines with Kosovo as well as the tanks of the Serbian military being transported closer to Kosovo.

What is the solution – if any?

In light of the rising tensions, a permanent question hangs in the air: Is there any possibility for a solution sometime soon?

One of the leading Serbian young historians Cedomir Antic thinks that changing the borders based upon mutual agreement is the best solution for everybody.

Cediomir Antic, a historian. /CGTN Photo

"Serbia is not willing, nor capable to reintegrate entire Kosovo and Metohija in its state organism," says Antic. "I believe that Kosovo Albanians don't want any ties with Serbia and I think that the worst outcome could be the frozen conflict. I think that best solution could be division of Kosovo."

Partitioning Kosovo is not a new idea on the table. It has been mentioned a number of times, even by some important international political players, but though there are quite a few supporters, not everybody is happy about it, a point that even the former President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic stressed.

Vuk Jeremic, former president of the UN General Assembly. /CGTN Photo

"My understanding is that there is a number of international players including permanent members of the Security Council who are opposing this. At least they are opposing at this very moment. And [as long as there] is such opposition, that is not [a] viable solution. Because as I said, the final solution has to be confirmed in the Security Council and [as] long as there is one permanent member or more permanent members that are opposing it, it's not going to pass," Jeremic said.

The EU-brokered negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina have so far yielded just modest results, with every step forward followed by two steps back. And even those are now on hold.

The Kosovo conflict didn't start just some 20 years ago, but has spanned for over a century between the Serbs and the Albanians. And yet, even today there is no end in sight, with both sides claiming their rights over that territory and with never-ending tensions still brewing over that part of the Balkans.