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Serbia, Kosovo leaders to hold symbolic first meeting

Published on Feb 6, 2013 6:53 PM

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Serb and Kosovo leaders meet for the first time in Brussels on Wednesday in a highly symbolic encounter that marks an important step in EU-sponsored efforts to improve relations between the former foes.

The meeting, chaired by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, comes nearly 14 years after the end of the 1998-1999 conflict between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas and Belgrade security forces.

Following a three-month-long NATO bombing campaign launched to halt Serbia's crackdown on Kosovo's independence-seeking rebels, Belgrade troops were expelled from the Serbian province, a move that paved the way for Pristina to unilaterally declare independence in 2008.

Brussels sees the talks between Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and his Kosovo counterpart Atifete Jahjaga as a way to normalise relations, despite Belgrade's refusal to recognise the independence of the breakaway territory.

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