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Serbian, Kosovo presidents to meet for the first time

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic will meet his Kosovo counterpart Atifete Jahjaga in Brussels next week, in a first such meeting since breakaway Kosovo declared independence in 2008, officials said Friday.

"President Nikolic will meet Atifete Jahjaga in Brussels on Wednesday, February 6," said the message on Nikolic's official Twitter account.

A source from the presidency confirmed the tweet's authenticity to AFP, but could not reveal further details.

In Brussels, officials could not confirm the meeting on Wednesday.

But a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that such an encounter, should it happen, would have a positive impact on normalising ties between Serbia and Kosovo, a former Serbian province.

"We believe that such a meeting would be important, particularly in the context of the normalisation of relations between the two sides, and would like to see it happen as soon as possible," Maja Kocijancic said.

Belgrade does not recognise Kosovo’s unilateral independence declaration from Serbia in 2008.

However in March 2011 under EU auspices, the two sides began talks aimed at normalising their relations.

So far, they have agreed on border controls, customs and other issues aimed at easing day-to-day life for Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population of 1.7 million.

Talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, are also to resume in February.

The two prime ministers have met four times since October 2012, when the talks resumed after a break of several months because of general elections in Serbia.

The EU-mediated dialogue led to the opening under joint management of four crossing points on the flashpoint border of northern Kosovo, home to a large Serbian minority which refuses to recognise Pristina's authority.

Also, the two sides have agreed on having so-called "liaison officers" in their respective capitals to boost communication.

Ashton has taken the lead in sponsoring the talks aimed at normalising ties after Kosovo's unilateral proclamation of independence in 2008.

More than 90 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 member states, have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.

The EU has promised to draw both sides closer to the 27-state bloc on condition they resolve trade and security issues that complicate citizens' daily lives.

Serbia is an EU candidate for membership and Kosovo hopes to formalise ties but the European Union says both must pursue dialogue and produce concrete results first.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130201/serbian-kosovo-presidents-meet-the-first-time-0