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‘Giant step forward’: Kosovo, Serbia reach deal on vehicle plates | EU News

Kosovo, Serbia agree EU-brokered deal to end dispute over vehicle licensing plates.

Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement to end a long-running dispute over EU vehicle license plates warned that ethnic violence could flare up,

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced the agreement on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We have a deal,” Borrell said.

“It is with great pleasure to announce that the chief negotiators of Kosovo and Serbia, under the facilitation of the European Union, have agreed on measures to avoid further escalation,” he said.

Borrell said Serbia and Kosovo – which declared themselves independent from Belgrade in 2008 – would now focus on an EU proposal on how to normalize their ties.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence is recognized by nearly 110 countries but not by Serbia, Russia, China and five EU member states.

The latest spat between the western Balkan neighbors broke out after the government in Pristina attempted to redress its Serb minority Change car plates before 1999When Kosovo was still part of Serbia.

But Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo – who refuse to recognize Pristina’s authority and still consider themselves part of Serbia – have resisted the ban, sometimes violently.

As a sign of defiance, about 600 police officers from Kosovo’s Serb minority, followed by judges, prosecutors and other state employees quit your job Earlier this month.

Despite fierce opposition, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti insisted the plan would go ahead – before announcing on Tuesday that postpone it for two daysWhen he came under pressure from the United States.

The dispute also set off alarm bells in the European Union, which has been mediating to try to normalize relations, and wants both sides to clamp down on provocative gestures.

Borrell said on Monday after hosting Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels for talks on the issue that Vucic was ready to accept the settlement, but Kurti was not.

Kurti accused Borrell of focusing only on license plates rather than fully normalizing relations between the neighbors.

Vucic said that Kurti was responsible for the failure of the meeting.

On Twitter on Wednesday, Borrell said the deal reached by the two sides saw Serbia stop issuing license plates with signs indicating Kosovo cities, and that Kosovo “stopped further action related to the re-registration of vehicles”. will give”.

Borrell said he would invite the two sides to discuss an EU proposal in the coming days, also backed by France and Germany, that would allow the foes to normalize ties.

Washington said it welcomed Wednesday’s deal.

“The two sides took a major step forward today, facilitated by the European Union, toward ensuring peace and stability across the region,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“We appreciate the agreement of the two countries to fully and urgently focus on normalizing relations under the auspices of the EU-facilitated dialogue,” he added.

The issue of Kosovo’s independence sparked a war between 1998 and 1999 that killed approximately 13,000 people. Serbia launched a brutal crackdown to quell a separatist insurgency by the region’s ethnic Albanians.

NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to end the war.

The Western Security Alliance still has about 3,700 peacekeepers to keep the fragile peace.

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