Serbia blames Kosovo Albanians for failed talks
Serbia blamed Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders on Wednesday for the failure of European Union-mediated talks on the future of Serb-controlled northern Kosovo, and said it will have to make some "painful" decisions to try reach a compromise with its bitter Balkan foe.
Presidential adviser Marko Djuric said after a meeting of the Serbian leadership that Serb proposals were rejected by ethnic Albanian officials during the meeting in Brussels that broke up early Wednesday.
"We failed to reach any compromise, but we are determined to head that way," Djuric said.
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Serbia has until the next Tuesday to make a "dramatic" decision on whether to accept or reject an agreement with Kosovo Albanians.
Serbian officials said the stumbling block in the talks was their demand that ethnic Serbs, who represent about 10 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, have their own judiciary and police force. The Serbian government also wants any future Kosovo army to be banned from patrolling the areas in Kosovo where ethnic Serbs represent a majority.
Serbia is required to normalize relations with its neighbors if it wants ultimately to join the European Union. But Kosovo officials have rejected the demands from Belgrade, saying they would be tantamount to a division of Kosovo into two separate entities.
Earlier, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said his delegation's proposals were met with "hesitation" by Serbia.
On Wednesday, Thaci brushed away claims that Kosovo was to blame for the stalemate. He said Serbia is the one that has asked for more time to come to terms with the proposal.
"Despite the current difficulties we cannot declare the process closed or failed," Thaci told reporters in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. "We hope that Serbia will reflect and accept the reality, accept the agreement.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008. It has fought a bitter war for independence which culminated with NATO bombings of Serbia to stop a carnage against ethnic Albanian separatists.
While some 90 countries - including the United States and most EU countries - have recognized Kosovo's independence, Serbia has not. The most contentious issue is the status of northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs dominate and refuse to accept the authority of the ethnic Albanian-controlled government in Pristina.
"The situation is very serious," Djuric said after the talks broke down. "In the next days, Serbia's leadership will make some very difficult decisions and will inform the public about them."
Tuesday's meeting was the eighth face-to-face gathering between the two prime ministers, all under EU mediation. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a written statement after talks broke down that it was the last formal meeting she would call between the parties.
"They will now both go back and consult with their colleagues in their capitals and will let me know in the next few days of their decision," she said.
Vucic, the Serbian deputy prime minister, told state TV that the choices would be difficult. "Whatever we choose, each of us will carry a heavy burden," he said.
Associated Press Writer Nebi Qena in Pristina contributed to this article