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No breakthrough after EU summons Kosovo and Serbia leaders for emergency talks

BRUSSELS (AP) – The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo made no breakthrough in European Union (EU)-hosted emergency talks on Thursday aimed at defusing tensions around their border.

The EU’s top diplomat said they agree on the need for early elections amid fears of a return to open conflict. Serbia and its former province of Kosovo have been at odds for decades.

Their 1998-99 war left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Belgrade has refused to recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

“I think the two leaders understand the severity of the situation,” Borrell said after hours of talks each with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

The two refused to meet face-to-face in Brussels but held separate talks with Borrell.

Borrell conceded that they have “different interpretations of the causes and also the facts, consequences and solutions”.

Tensions flared anew last month after Kosovo police seized local municipality buildings in northern Kosovo, where Serbs represent a majority, to instal ethnic Albanian mayors who were elected in a local election that Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted.

Serbia has put its troops on the border on the highest state of alert amid a series of recent clashes between Kosovo Serbs on one side and Kosovo police and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led peacekeepers on the other. In recent weeks, NATO has sent in reinforcements.

The tensions persisted last week with three stun grenades exploded near Kosovo police stations in the north of the country, while Kosovo Serbs staged protests in front of municipality buildings.

A police car burns in Zvecan, northern Kosovo. PHOTO: AP