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The Latest: Kosovo president acknowledges Serbia problems

September 7, 2018
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A view on street in Presevo, Serbia, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. In an ethnic Albanian-dominated region in southern Serbia that borders Kosovo and that has been widely assumed a potential bargaining chip in any land-swap deal between Serbia and its breakaway former province. (AP Photo/Zenel Zhinipotoku)

PRESEVO, Serbia (AP) — The Latest on diplomatic talks between Serbia and Kosovo (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

Kosovo’s president says that negotiations with Serbia are becoming more and more difficult.

Hashim Thaci on Friday had planned to meet in Brussels with his Serb counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, but they only met separately with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said after several rounds with each of them that “difficulties remain.”

Thaci tried to avoid journalists’ question on why Vucic left without meeting with him, saying they had “dialogued through Mogherini, which has been a procedure and practice even before,” reported private television station rtv21.

“It is becoming more difficult because disagreements are deepening,” he said, without clarifying what the disagreements were.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and its independence is recognized by more than 100 countries, but not by Belgrade.

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1:55 p.m.

The European Union’s top diplomat says she’s concluded separate talks with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo but that there has been no breakthrough in normalizing their strained relations.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Friday after meetings with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci that she held several rounds of talks but that “difficulties remain.”

She says she hopes both leaders will continue discussions and “reach in the coming months a legally binding agreement on comprehensive normalization of relations, in line with international law.”

Mogherini said she would chair further high-level talks in Brussels between the sides later this month.

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11:50 a.m.

A top Serbian negotiator at European Union-brokered negotiations on normalizing relations with Kosovo says the two nations’ presidents won’t meet in Brussels as expected.

Serbian government official Marko Djuric said on Friday in Brussels that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic “will not talk today with the representatives of Pristina.”

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008. Belgrade does not recognize its independence.

Djuric added that “there are not minimum conditions to talk to the representatives of Pristina today.” Djuric cited “all the threats and deceits” from Kosovo that he says have made the meeting impossible.

Vucic has met with the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is the mediator in the talks that are aimed at finding a solution to the dispute stemming from the 1990s conflict. Mogherini also met Kosovo President Hashim Thaci.

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10:30 a.m.

The idea of a “land swap” between Serbia and Kosovo to settle their long-running dispute once and for all has stirred passions ahead of a new round of talks between former war foes.

The notion would likely see a part of southern Serbia centered on the ethnic Albanian-dominated city of Presevo transferred to Kosovo, while the Serb-dominated northern part of Kosovo, around Mitrovica, would become part of Serbia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Hashim Thaci are meeting Friday in Brussels as part of efforts to normalize relations in the region still riven by tensions from the 1998-99 war.

Both have been told that they must sort out their differences if they want to advance toward EU membership, but there is opposition both domestically and internationally to the land-swap plan.

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