"Crisis used to pressure Greece to recognize Kosovo"

BELGRADE -- Greece will not recognize Kosovo, Greek Ambassador to Belgrade Dimosthenis Stoidis told Serbian Parliament Speaker Nebojša Stefanović on Thursday in Belgrade.

This, the Greek diplomat explained, is true despite the fact that the economic crisis affecting Greece "was used in order to pressure Athens to recognize the authorities in Priština", Beta news agency is reporting.

Serbia rejected as illegal the unilateral declaration of independence of its southern province, made in early 2008 by Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. Five out of EU's 27 member-states, Greece included, have also not recognized it.

During the meeting in Belgrade today, Stoidis told Stefanović that his country "would do everything in order for Serbia's remaining path toward full EU integration to be as successful as possible".

A statement issued by the Serbian parliament also said that the ambassador noted that Greece "still supports Serbia's road toward the EU", and that this country's stance not to recognize Kosovo will not change "although the economic crisis was used to pressure Athens" to do otherwise.

Stoidis further stated that Greece "encouraged Serbia to continue its dialogue with Priština" - although, as he noted, the term "normalization of relations" was being interpreted differently within the EU itself.

Stefanović told the ambassador that Serbia will also not change its policy toward Kosovo and Metohija - and "will never recognize it", although it remains "open to negotiations wishing to secure the lives and existence of Serbs in Kosovo".

The speaker added that Serbia recognized agreements reached thus far in the EU-sponsored Kosovo dialogue, and expressed his expectation that Greece "will continue to have a firm position, and offer assistance in the fight to respect international law".

Stefanović accepted an invitation relayed by Stoidis to visit the Greek parliament in Athens, it was announced on Thursday.