Kosovo, Serbia agree on EU agreement to end dispute over license plates.
Kosovo and Serbia have agreed to end a long-running dispute over car licenses that the European Union has warned could lead to ethnic violence.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, announced the deal on Twitter on Wednesday.
“We have an agreement,” Borrell said.
“I am happy to announce that the EU-led negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on measures to avoid further escalation,” he said.
Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence in Belgrade in 2008, will now focus on EU proposals on how to improve their relationship, Borrell said.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence is recognized by about 110 countries but not by Serbia, Russia, China and five EU member states.
The latest conflict between the Western Balkan neighbors began after the government in Pristina demanded that the Serb minority change its license plates from 1999 when Kosovo was still part of Serbia.
But Serbs in northern Kosovo – who refuse to recognize Pristina’s rule and still see themselves as part of Serbia – have resisted the ban, sometimes violently.
As a sign of disobedience, about 600 police officers from the Serb minority in Kosovo, followed by judges, prosecutors and other civil servants resigned at the beginning of this month.
Despite fierce protests, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti insisted the plan would go ahead, before announcing on Tuesday that he would delay it for two days, after pressure from the United States.
The dispute has also raised alarm bells in the EU, which has been lobbying for negotiations to end the deal and wants both sides to avoid further aggression.
Borrell on Monday, after receiving Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels to discuss the issue, said that Vucic was ready to accept compromise but Kurti was not.
Kurti criticized Borrell for focusing on licenses instead of maintaining a good relationship with the neighborhood.
Vucic said Kurti was responsible for the failure of the meeting.
On Twitter on Wednesday, Borrell said that the agreement between the two sides had resulted in Serbia ceasing to issue licenses for the cities of Kosovo, and that Kosovo would “leave some issues related to the re-registration of vehicles”.
Borrell added that he will invite both sides in the coming days to discuss the EU’s proposal, also supported by France and Germany, which will allow the adversaries to improve their relations.
Washington said it accepted Wednesday’s agreement.
“The two parties have made significant progress today, with the EU’s guidance, to ensure peace and stability throughout the region,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department.
“We also appreciate the cooperation of the two countries to focus on speed and speed in the reconstruction of their relations with the help of negotiations facilitated by the EU,” he added.
The issue of Kosovo’s independence led to a war between 1998 and 1999 in which approximately 13,000 people died. Serbia launched a brutal campaign to quell the ethnic Albanian rebellion.
NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to end the war.
The security alliance still has about 3,700 peacekeepers on the ground to maintain the fragile peace.