Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that Belgrade “cannot recognize Kosova” as an independent state unless Serbia gets something in return from Prishtina as part of a larger deal.
Vucic made the remark in an interview given to the Italian news agency ANSA on March 4 ahead of an official visit to Italy.
Serbia’s Beta news agency reported that Vucic’s call for Prishtina to provide Belgrade with something in return for recognition was later left out of ANSA’s report — leading international news agencies who quoted the report to retract stories suggesting that Vucic had hinted at progress toward recognizing Kosova’s independence from Serbia.
“We must first find the compromise. We cannot recognize Kosova without getting anything from the other side,” Vucic said. “Unless there is a compromise agreement on Kosova, it will be a disaster.”
“Although everything seems difficult and sometimes impossible, we are determined to reach a compromise,” Vucic also said. “I am sure that we can come to a solution with the help of our European friends and with the support of Russia, America, China and other countries.”
Kosova was a province of Serbia in 1999 when NATO launched air strikes to stop a crackdown on ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces during a two-year war.
Tensions remain high between the Balkan neighbors two decades after their war ended. Western countries, including the United States, have urged the two sides to move to normalize relations.
Belgrade and Prishtina have been under strong international pressure to reach an agreement if they want to progress on the path to European Union membership.
In 2018, Vucic and Kosova’s President Hashim Thaci appeared to inch closer to some agreement.
But that effort stalled in November when Prishtina imposed a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods in response to what Kosovar officials claim are attempts by Belgrade to undermine Kosova’s standing within some international organizations.
“Unlike Kosova leaders who deceive their citizens every day with unrealistic promises that Prishtina will get everything and Belgrade will get nothing, it is my duty to explain to Serbs the importance of compromise [with Prishtina]. This does not represent a defeat but a victory — a victory for the future of Serbia,” Vucic said.
Vucic also denied having any secret meetings with Thaci, as some media have reported. He also described as “pure lies” some media reports suggesting that a draft of a final agreement between Belgrade and Prishtina had been drawn up.
He reiterated that Belgrade will not continue dialogue with Prishtina until authorities in Kosova abolish their 100 percent taxes on goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.