Advisor: Diplomatic offensive aimed at compromise

BELGRADE -- Serbia's top officials will step up a dialogue with the EU, U.S., and other Quint countries in the coming days in order to secure support for Serbia's stand.

Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)

This was announced on Thursday by Foreign Policy Advisor to the Serbian president Marko Đurić, who explained that the country's position was that "for a compromise to be reached, an association of Serb municipalities in Kosovo and Metohija would have to have executive powers".

Serbian diplomatic representatives and heads of mission to international organizations will join the efforts, he said.

“It is very important that we maintain a continuing dialogue not only with representatives of the EU, but also with the Quint Countries (the U.S., Germany, Britain, France and Italy) which have the most prominent influence in our southern province,” Đurić said, voicing confidence in the strength of Serbia's arguments.

The goal is to get the message across that for a compromise to be reached, it is of crucial importance that this association of Serb municipalities in Kosovo-Metohija has concrete powers, bodies that would implement these powers, so that it would not be just an empty shell, he said.

"It has to be the core framework that can guarantee to our community in Kosovo a life by optimum living standards, in accordance with those referring to regional self-government in Europe in the 21st century," Đurić explained.

When asked about a possible change of view by the U.S., which is seen as Priština's chief supporter, Đurić said Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dačić met with Philip Reeker, a high ranking US official, during the most recent round of the talks between Belgrade and Priština in Brussels, adding that he also met with Reeker and that the meetings would continue before the next round of the talks, set for March 20.

"The consultations with the United States should continue, as it is an important partner in the region, as well as with the other countries of the Quint and officials of the European Commission, whom we expect to be a neutral mediator on this issue. It is a very important message that will be delivered in the coming days," Đurić noted.

In consultations held so far, we have told foreign officials that "we have a historic chance to reach a compromise, if the other side agrees to our demand - supported by valid arguments - to establish an association of municipalities which would have concrete executive competencies and a sufficient level of self-government to ensure the Serb community feels safe in the province," he said.

Asked about pressure from Priština and one part of the international community that Belgrade alter its position in exchange for opening accession talks with the EU, Đurić said these goals must not conflict with one another.

This would sent a negative message to both sides involved in the dialogue and would make the possibility of a compromise more remote, he said.

"This is why Serbia wants the December conclusions of the Council of the EU to be the foremost criteria when the decision to grant a date is made. Serbia has for the most part fulfilled these conditions and will meet them, in both the formal and the political sense, by the deadline for the submission of a new report. Setting any new terms right now would not be productive," believes Đurić.

Asked whether March 20 is the key date for Serbia, Đurić noted that "Serbia does not believe any political issue related to Kosovo should be dealt with in excessive haste."

He notes that any step made towards a compromise will need to be approved by the Serbian parliament and enacted through a lengthy process which will enable the formation of an association of Serb municipalities and its institutions, which will have executive authority in all key areas.