"No independence — all agreements to be respected"

It is out of the question for Serbia to recognize Kosovo and Metohija as independent, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić said in New York on Tuesday.

Source: B92

The president spoke with B92 TV's Ljubica Gojgić shortly after he gave his United Nations General Assembly speech.

Nikolić conceded that his speech was "strong", but noted that he "had to say it clearly to everybody" that the Serbian authorities will respect everything that has been achieved in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue thus far - but that they would not do anything more than that.

"The independence (of Kosovo) is out of the question," he emphasized, and added:

"We will respect everything the previous government agreed to in the dialogue, but we are not going any farther than that. We are on the edge and anything more - we will be falling into Kosovo and Metohija's independence, in other words, we will be falling off the edge, and why would we do that knowingly? If we do say that there is no (Kosovo) independence, let's do everything to show that life can be good in Kosovo and Metohija, that it can be in line with standards, that we can give a lot and leave the administering of a large portion of the territory to the interim institutions (in Priština) - but that independence really is out of the question."

Nikolić said that his speech was designed to clearly demonstrate to everyone his position on Kosovo:

"I tried to tell - both those who recognized Kosovo and those who did not, both those who agree and those who disagree with us - that I must respect the principles of the state, and that means that we will not give up just like that on everything that the state has done thus far. By that same token we cannot annul the results of the talks either, although they are unfavorable for us. And as I said it in the hall - that represents the fulfillment of (ethnic) Albanian wishes and that agreement was made under heavy pressure exerted on the then authorities of Serbia, but we will respect everything that's been agreed on."

According to him, his speech also contained "things that some EU representatives do not like to hear".

"I spoke also about the crimes committed against Serbs, the (Kosovo human) organs trade that everyone's keeping quiet about, carrying on their conscience for two years the report of Dick Marty, and it seems to me that it's an attempt to maintain that Serbs were the only ones committing crimes, and that no crimes were committed against them. The EU must maintain its balanced position, remain neutral in regard to Kosovo and Metohija's status, and insist only on the obligations we have undertaken. And after this speech, I don't think anyone will be able to speak to me so openly about the independence of Kosovo and Metohija."

Asked if he expected "the West to hold it against him" - and say that his position on Kosovo had been "radicalized", Nikolić said that he had spoken about "all this" before - during and before elections:

"If six years ago somebody told me that I would accept to implement an agreement reached before me, and which will make many Serbs unhappy, although during the past 12 years they preserved a lot over there, I would not have believed them. However, life has brought with it a completely different relationship in the field. I repeat, we will not go any farther than this. Not only Mrs. (Catherine) Ashton - there is nobody in the world who could influence me to censor myself now, and speak what I think might be acceptable to someone from abroad."

No handshake

Tomislav Nikolić met with U.S. President Barack Obama twice while in New York - during a reception on Monday, at at the UNGA on Tuesday.

Commenting on the encounter at the UN, the Serbian leader said that it was "brief and courteous", but that he in fact talked with Obama's associates.

He explained that the conversation was "more about what America can do for the question of Kosovo and Metohija to be solved, without asking only that Serbia must fulfill all that they are demanding."

Nikolić also told B92 that he was satisfied with a series of bilateral and informal meetings that included all regional Balkan leaders.

As for the delegation of the Kosovo Albanians - led by President Atifete Jahjaga and PM Hashim Thaci, who have been invited to New York as guests - Nikolić reiterated that it was "out of the question" for him to shake the hand of either:

"The time has not come for that at all, nor do I feel the need for it - nor would anyone in Serbia forgive me. Therefore, when we achieve something that will make us all satisfied, we might also shake hands. I really have no reason to shake Thaci's hand at any time."

However, Nikolić had this message for Thaci - that he should consider whether his goal was to deceive his citizens that they had a state, to then arrive to the UN headquarters as a guest and sit in the gallery because he could not take part in the work of the UN.

"I think he should think about what has been achieved thus far, what more could be achieved. Serbia is ready to discuss everything based on the UN Charter and (UN Security Council) Resolution 1244. But, obviously, as long as the Security Council is the way it is, and the UN Charter what it is, the so-called Kosovo cannot become a member of the UN, and he (Thaci) can never sit in this hall as a member."

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