Austria’s Kosovo support might undermine possibility of compromise: Serbian president

October 18, 2018 5:00 PM

Austrian support for Kosovo’s membership in international institutions could reflect negatively on the possibility of reaching compromise between Serbia and authorities in its southern province that unilaterally seceded in 2008, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told his visiting Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen on Wednesday, asking for a restrained approach.

Van der Bellen was in Serbia for a two-day visit where he and Vucic discussed economic and bilateral ties and Serbia’s progress in European integration. There was a strong focus on the normalization of relations between Serbia and its province Kosovo and Metohija, which Austria recognizes as a separate country.

According to Serbia’s public broadcaster RTS, Vucic said Serbia was prepared to talk with Austria about their differing opinions over Kosovo, and asked authorities in Vienna to withhold their support for Kosovo, especially the province’s aspirations to join Interpol, until a compromise solution could be found between Belgrade and Pristina.

According to Van der Bellen, the condition for Serbia’s European Union (EU) membership is to solve problems with Pristina, as EU does not wish to import new conflicts. However, Vucic expressed worry that open support for Kosovo’s membership in international institutions would have a negative impact on the possibility to reach a compromise.

“We (Serbia and Austria) have had different attitudes over this for almost 10 years, and nothing has changed in those differences. We have to understand this. We will have to reach some agreements about this at some point if a possibility of a compromise solution ever comes across,” Vucic said.

Van der Bellen said “Austria wholeheartedly supports Serbia’s EU path”, and that the EU, together with the United States, was ready to look at whether there was any possibility of compromise between Belgrade and Pristina.

The Austrian president asked Serbia to understand the request to resolve all bilateral disputes before EU accession.
“EU had two bad experiences that it does not wish to repeat: firstly, Cyprus, and secondly, the Slovenia-Croatia dispute,” he explained.

Van der Bellen also met Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. He will on Thursday take part in a panel discussion on the Western Balkans and the EU at the Belgrade Security Forum together with Vucic.
On the occasion of the centennial of the World War One, the two presidents will lay wreaths on Thursday at the Serbian Ossuary Monument, as well as the Austria-Hungary military cemetery from the same period.

(Source: xinhua)

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