Kosovo Serbs want referendum in Serbia on Kosovo deal

Kosovo Serbs want Serbia to hold a referendum on whether to accept the EU-sponsored deal signed on Friday in Brussels between Belgrade and Pristina that would normalise their relations.

Kosovo Serb deputies in northern Kosovo "demand a referendum in Serbia to be called in which the citizens will decide whether Kosovo will remain in Serbia or accept the deal that would give it a date to start negotiations with the EU," said a resolution adopted after the deal was signed in Brussels.

Like Belgrade, Serbs in northern Kosovo have never accepted Pristina's 2008 declaration of independence.

In Brussels, Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci said that "by accepting the agreement, Serbia has de jure recognised Kosovo."

"This is a big day for Kosovo and Serbia, and also for the EU," Thaci told reporters.

Earlier, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton announced that Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Thaci had signed a deal to normalise ties.

"What we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe," Ashton said.

However, Kosovo Serb leaders branded the accord as a "surrender."

"This is the worst surrender and betrayal which has ever happened in Serbia," said nationalist deputy Marko Jaksic.

By accepting the deal, Dacic and his deputy Aleksandar Vucic "have started a process of complete separation of Kosovo from Serbia by violating the constitution of their country," Jaksic said.

Some 120,000 ethnic Serbs live in mostly ethnic Albanian populated Kosovo. 40,000 of these live in the north on the border with Serbia and the rest in enclaves dotted around the territory.

In February 2012, northern Kosovo Serbs held a referendum in which they rejected Pristina's declaration of independence. But the referendum was not recognised by Belgrade and Pristina.

The normalisation accord between Serbia and Kosovo is one of the key conditions for both sides to move closer to the EU.

Belgrade hopes to obtain a date to start negotiations talks and Kosovo wants to make the first steps towards applying for candidacy.