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Serbia and Kosovo reach landmark deal

The agreement could pave the way toward European Union membership for Belgrade.

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A Kosovo Albanian man walks past a graffiti reading 'Kosovo Republic' in the town of Pristina on February 24, 2012. (ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Serbia and its former province, Kosovo, have reached a landmark deal that could pave the way toward eventual European Union membership for Belgrade.

The deal aims to normalize relations between the rival Balkan neighbors. After nearly a decade of war, Kosovo established an independent state in 2008 and up until now Serbia has not recognized it as a separate country.

The new agreement omits Serbia's official recognition of Kosovo's independence but, nonetheless, it is seen as a major breakthrough in the wake of the region's long brutal civil war, the New York Times said.

Under the deal both sides agree not to block the other's entrance into the European Union and Serbs located in northern Kosovo will be able to establish their own police force and courts for increased autonomy, the BBC reported.

The milestone should help stabilize the region and comes after six months of difficult negotiations, The New York Times said.

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More than 90 countries, including the United States and much of Europe, currently recognize Kosovo but five EU nations have refused.

On Monday, European Union nations convene in Brussels to decide whether to let Serbia begin negotiations for its entry into the bloc.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130419/serbia-kosovo-reach-landmark-deal