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Serbian leader says resolving Kosovo conflict ‘very hard’

September 8, 2018
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Serbian President Aleksadar Vucic speaks at the Gazivode Dam near the village of Gazivode, Kosovo, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Vucic is on a two day visit to Kosovo. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

GAZIVODE, Kosovo (AP) — Serbia’s president said Saturday that an agreement resolving his country’s dispute with Kosovo will be difficult to achieve given European opposition to remaking borders in the Balkans region.

President Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia wants to be on friendly terms with Kosovo, but doesn’t recognize its 2008 declaration of independence.

Vucic is in Kosovo for a two-day visit. Speculation surfaced in recent weeks that the countries were headed toward normalized relations and might exchange territory.

The land swap idea has drawn opposition based on concerns the exchange would produce demands for similar deals in the volatile region.

“It will be very hard for us to reach any kind of agreement,” Vucic said while visiting Serb-populated northern Kosovo. “Serbia cannot accept the imposed decisions from 2008.”

Kosovo was a Serbian province when a crackdown on ethnic-Albanian separatists in 1998-99 led to the deaths of more than 10,000 people. The conflict ended with a NATO intervention that forced Serbia to pull out of the province.

Serbia and Kosovo must mend ties to advance toward European Union membership. The two sides have been engaged in EU-mediated negotiations.

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