Protesters hold flags and banners at a demonstration against a Western-backed deal on normalising ties between Kosovo and Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia (Image: Reuters)
Protest marches were carried out in Belgrade on Friday, a day before Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo PM Albin Kurti are to meet
Several thousand people protested on Friday evening in Belgrade against a plan on normalisation of ties between Serbia and Kosovo, on the eve of the new round of high level talks over it.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti are to hold the talks at a meeting on Saturday in North Macedonia that will be chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The negotiations will focus on how to fulfil an 11-point agreement the EU has put on the table designed to help draw a line under decades of enmity between Serbia and its former province that declared independence in 2008.
Some 4,000 people, according to an AFP photographer, gathered Friday in front of Saint Sava cathedral in downtown Belgrade and then marched to the presidency.
“No to capitulation!”, read a giant banner carried by the protestors.
“This plan, which is presented to us as a compromise, leads directly to the establishment of a ‘Greater Albania'”, Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski, head of the ultranationalist group Zavetnici (‘Oath Keepers’ in Serbian), told the crowd.
Like other speakers, she criticised Vucic’s policy over the issue.
“We urge him to reject everything tomorrow in Ohrid. This ultimatum … it’s not an agreement, it’s a betrayal.”
The crowd chanted “Treason!” and “Long live (Russian President Vladimir) Putin!”.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, whose 1.8 million people are mostly ethnic Albanian, are still high nearly 25 years after the war between ethnic Albanian insurgents and Serb forces.
Serbia still refuses to recognise Kosovo independence and bouts of unrest erupt between local authorities and Kosovo’s Serb minority.
The latest talks follow months of shuttle diplomacy to push the EU plan that has been backed by the United States and all 27 leaders from the bloc.
Saturday’s meeting comes after the two sides failed to come to an agreement last month in Brussels where the peace plan was unveiled.
Kurti and Vucic have traded barbs since insisting many issues remained unresolved that would prevent an agreement.
Borrell on Thursday urged the two leaders to show “courage” at new talks and agree how to implement the plan.
Normalising ties between the two sides was “an important step” towards their objectives of one day joining the EU, he wrote in a blog piece.
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