Serbia's president urges nation to resolve Kosovo relations

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia must resolve its relations with its breakaway former province of Kosovo in order to move forward, Serbia's president wrote in an opinion piece Monday.

In the op-ed article in the high-circulation Blic daily, President Aleksandar Vucic urged a lasting solution for the problem that has been a source of tensions in the Balkans since the 1998-99 war.

"It is important now, more than ever, that we all find an answer together," said Vucic, who has called for an all-nation discussion on the sensitive issue of the future of ties with Kosovo. "That (answer) should be permanent, rule out conflict as an option and benefit everyone in this region."

The mostly ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 with western backing. Supported by Russia, Serbia has vowed never to recognize the split.

Under European Union pressure, Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to participate in EU-mediated talks on normalizing ties in order to advance their efforts to join the bloc. But Serbian nationalists want to ditch the EU bid and turn to Russia to avoid ever recognizing Kosovo, which many in the country consider the cradle of the Serbian nation.

Vucic — himself a former extreme nationalist in the 1990s' war era who now says Serbia should join the EU — said "we must at least try to resolve the Kosovo knot and not hide and leave the toughest burden to our children."

"All the paths of political cooperation and economic cooperation would be open for Serbia," he added. "And the door of the European Union as well."

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