Kosovo's president rejects ethnic land swap with Serbia

August 01, 2018 - 10:39 am

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The president of Kosovo has rejected the idea of dividing the country along ethnic lines to resolve a dispute over its independence from Serbia.

But President Hashim Thaci told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he was open to discussing "a correction" of borders during the difficult European Union-mediated peace negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia.

"Serbia's claim for a Kosovo division will not be successful. It is unacceptable," he said.

In 1999, NATO intervened to stop a bloody Serb crackdown on Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, recognized by more than 100 countries but not by Belgrade.

Tensions remain high even after seven-year EU-facilitated negotiations during which Brussels has made it clear to Pristina and Belgrade they must normalize relations in order to advance toward membership in the bloc.

The Serbian government has said a possible solution could be a land swap based on where ethnic Serb and Albanian minorities are concentrated — Kosovo's northern Mitrovica region for Serbia's Presevo Valley.

Thaci said there would be no "division but a correction of borders," with the possible inclusion of the Presevo Valley with Kosovo. He did not say whether that would be swapped for northern Mitrovica.

The president was determined that negotiations with Serbia, under the EU leadership and closely followed by the United States, would result in bilateral recognition soon.

"If the Kosovo-Serbia border correction and the final agreement on mutual recognition are achieved, if such an agreement is of bilateral and balanced, meaning a win-win for both parties, then no one would be against it," he said.

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Llazar Semini contributed from Saranda, Albania.

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Follow Semini on twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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