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26th Feb 2024

Kosovo killing halts EU talks in Brussels

  • An Ivanovic election poster from 2013 (Photo: Allan Leonard)

Serbia has walked out of EU talks on better relations with Kosovo after what it called the "terrorist" killing of a Serb politician in Kosovo.

"The murder of Oliver Ivanovic is an act of terror aimed at destabilising the situation in Kosovo and an attack against all Serbian people. We are terminating the negotiations," the Serb delegation said on Twitter on Tuesday (16 January) before returning from Brussels to Belgrade.

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  • Bridge to north Mitrovice (Photo: morbin)

The talks were meant to have lasted three days. An EU source said it was too early to say when they might resume.

Serb president Aleksandar Vucic, who called a meeting of the National Emergency Council in Serbia the same day, said: "The perpetrators will be caught, and if they [Kosovo authorities] don't do it, we will."

Ramush Haradinaj, the Kosovar prime minister, said: "Kosovo remains committed to create a safe environment for all its citizens and is powerfully set in its Euro-Atlantic path".

Shot in broad daylight

An unknown gunman shot Ivanovic outside his office in north Mitrovica, a Serb enclave in Kosovo, on Tuesday morning.

The 64-year old politician died of his wounds on the way to hospital.

The EU and US have appealed for "calm and restraint" and for swift action by Kosovo police.

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini also phoned Vucic and Kosovo president Hashim Thaci and pledged that the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo, Eulex, would "support" the manhunt.

Nato, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the UN issued similar messages.

"The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has no alternative and we should not allow such acts to hinder it," Boyko Borisov, the prime minister of Bulgaria, the current EU presidency, said.

Ivanovic, the victim, was the head of a small, moderate political party called the Citizens Initiative, but he was also fighting war crimes charges in court.

The Western appeals for calm came amid high tension in the region.

The Kosovar government has tried to block an EU tribunal in The Hague on Kosovar war crime allegations, with some MPs threatening to "activate" former Kosovar guerrillas if indictments went ahead.

It has also refused to implement a previous EU-brokered deal with Serbia to devolve power to an Association of Serb Municipalities (ASM) in Mitrovica and other Serb-majority zones.

At the same time, Russia has aggravated nationalist and ethnic feeling by selling arms to Serbia and by accusing the EU of trying to create a "greater Albania" in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

The EU is hoping that the Serbia-Kosovo talks, which began six years ago, could lead to a binding accord on "normal" relations by 2019, allowing Serbia to enter the EU in 2025.

The Serb and Kosovar delegations had come to Brussels on Tuesday at the level of chief negotiators on both sides to talk about the ASM, among other issues.

The Serb officials left before the first meeting began, the EU source said.

Serbia's Vucic added on Tuesday that he already had intelligence on who might have been behind the assassination, but declined to give details.

He said someone had dumped a burnt-out Opel Astra car nearby to act as a red herring.

"There are interesting details that point to who might be the killers," he said.

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