First breakthrough possible in Kosovo-Serbia talks

A "concrete" breakthrough is in the offing this weekend at EU-brokered Serbia-Kosovo talks to ease headaches caused by Belgrade's non-recognition of Pristina's independence, an EU source said Friday.

"We're looking forward to the next round of the dialogue. We are optimistic about achieving concrete results," said a senior EU official on condition of anonymity.

The fifth round of talks, led by Serbian foreign ministry official Borko Stefanovic and Kosovan deputy prime minister Edita Tahiri, is to begin early Saturday in Brussels, with a further meeting possibly scheduled ahead of the summer break.

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Focused on practical problems complicating the daily lives of ordinary people, the two sides have been working to resolve several issues, with agreement said to be close on enabling the free movement of people across the contentious border.

Other issues on the table are wrangles over the civil registry, land and property records, telecommunications, customs, and the mutual recognition of university diplomas.

In Belgrade, Stefanovic told Belgrade TV station B92 that he expected an "agreement on freedom of movement, land and property records and civil registry to be reached finally."

"There is a high probability that we will reach an accord on diplomas' recognition and telecommunications, but if not now, we might meet again later in July or in September," Stefanovic said.

He indicated that Kosovo citizens would be able to travel through Serbian territory with their identity cards, but said their passports and licence plates -- issued by Pristina -- will not be recognised.

"A passport is the highest symbol of citizenship, while the identity card is not," Stefanovic said.

He said the governments in Pristina and Belgrade were expected to implement the agreement reached by their negotiators "as soon as possible."

With a helping hand from the European Union, Belgrade and Pristina broke the ice last March, kicking off their first head-to-head talks since Kosovo's declaration of independence three years ago.

The dialogue brings both sides inching closer to Europe, with Serbia notably clearing a crucial hurdle last year in its bid to join the EU as a reward for its softened stance on Kosovo.

And last month's arrest of Balkans war fugitive Ratko Mladic has added a feather in Belgrade's cap.

Belgrade officially still views the territory as its southern province.

However, 76 countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 European Union members, have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.