Belgrade: Serbia and Kosovo are in Brussels on Friday for more European Union-mediated talks in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise toward reconciliation before EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton presents a report.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic will meet Kosovar Premier Hashim Thaci to try to bridge the divide between their positions, which Ashton now sees as narrow and very shallow. The two leaders are meeting after an 17 April round ended without agreement.

We hope the 10th round will be an important one in order to reach an agreement, Thaci told reporters in Brussels before the meetings. I also hope that Serbia has reflected in order to agree to this accord, in order to have an agreement in principle.

An EU-brokered agreement would help Serbia win the date for the start of EU membership talks in June, while unlocking pre- accession talks for its breakaway province. Serbia refuses to acknowledge Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, which has been recognized by more than 90 nations, including the US and 22 of 27 EU member states, and vowed never to recognize it.

Serbia’s delegation met NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 8 am in Brussels to seek guarantees that the army of Kosovo will be kept away from northern Kosovo. Rasmussen promised help to ensure a peaceful coexistence.

NATO offer

We stand ready to make our contribution if needed to make sure that these negotiations can conclude with a positive result, which I hope to see very soon, Rasmussen told reporters at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels on Friday.

Serbia wants Kosovo to allow Serbs who live in the north to have their own police and judiciary systems. Thaci said the Serbian community won’t get executive powers to avoid creating another layer of the government.

Still, Kosovo will create the conditions for opening of the first free and open elections in the north, and the institutions of Kosovo will invite the OSCE to observe this process, Thaci said.

After the meeting on 17 April, Ashton said that we have some hours left during which both delegations will reflect on whether they can take the final steps necessary to finish this agreement and to move their people forward into the future. Ashton will submit her observations to the General Affairs Council on 22 April.

Dinar trading

The Serbian dinar was almost unchanged to trade at 111.5148 to the euro at 2:40 pm in Belgrade while the main stock market index of 15 most actively traded assets shed 0.55% to close at 556.36 points, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yields on Serbia’s 10-year Eurobond rose to 5.43% from 5.427% on Thursday.

Ashton invited the two leaders to Brussels to make another effort toward reconciliation before Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule completes his report on Serbia’s readiness to start membership talks, which include an accord with Kosovo.

Dacic said Thaci wanted to link the resolution of the police issue with a new point introduced that both sides will commit not to block each other in international organizations.

And where can Kosovo block us? Nowhere, Dacic said after talks in 17 April. That means that we should allow Kosovo to become a member of international organizations, then better ask us clearly to recognize Kosovo.

Ashton offer

Ashton’s offer addressed Serb communities’ right to appoint the chief of the regional police, as well as police commanders for each Serbian municipality in Kosovo, according to Marko Djuric, the foreign policy adviser to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.

In Kosovo’s north, Serb leaders demanded a nationwide referendum on possible EU-mediated agreement, opposing any pact that would legitimize the unrecognized, self-proclaimed state, said Dragisa Vasic, the head of the Leposavic municipality, one of four in northern Kosovo where Serbs form a majority.

Vasic is convinced the accord would be rejected in a plebiscite, while some 100,000 Serbs still living in Kosovo would oppose any attempt to implement it, he said in a phone interview.

The deputy head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Krstimir Pantic, said that ‘‘Serbs from northern Kosovo also want to become part of the European Union, but not as citizens of Kosovo." BLOOMBERG

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