Serbia, Kosovo leaders to hold symbolic first meeting
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.