Brussels: The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo on Friday reached a tentative deal to normalise relations between the Balkan neighbours and end years of acrimony.
EU negotiator Catherine Ashton said the deal ends months of tense negotiations and showed the determination of both Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
"What we are seeing is a step away from the past and for both of them a step closer to Europe," Ashton, the EU`s foreign policy chief, said.
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is considered by nationalists to be the cradle of Serbian medieval statehood and religion. It has been recognised by more than 90 countries including the US and 22 of the EU`s 27 members. But because of a blockade by Serbian allies Russia and China in the Security Council, Kosovo is not a UN member.
Serbia relinquished the control of most of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO chased its troops out of the region after a three-month bombing campaign. Ending the partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and the Serb-controlled north about a fifth of the country ? is a key condition of Serbia`s further progress toward EU membership.
The status of northern Kosovo, which is inhabited primarily by ethnic Serbs who do not recognise Kosovo`s predominantly ethnic Albanian government, has been among the most difficult issues during talks.
Thaci said that the agreement would pave the way for both Kosovo and Serbia to ultimately join the European Union and NATO. A precondition for joining the EU is that countries "normalise" relations with their neighbours.