Balkans: Serbia, fresh boycott by Nikolic

Regional summit ends without agreement on final document

15 June, 20:16

(ANSAmed) - BELGRADE, JUNE 15 - Newly elected Serb President Tomislav Nikolic has reaffirmed his intention to pursue Serbia's road towards integration with Europe and to promote regional reconciliation in the Balkans. But a regional heads of state summit chaired by him in Belgrade today has been boycotted once again by various Balkan presidents and has concluded without the adoption of a final document due to Albanian disagreement, the country being dissatisfied with the treatment given to Kosovo by Serbia.

Nationalist conservative President Nikolic told today's summit that ''regional cooperation is a prerequisite for security and stability''... and that ''Serbia intends to pursue its policy of good relations with all of the countries in the region''. The meeting of the twelve SEECP states belonging to the Southeast European Cooperation Process signalled the end of Serbia's year-long presidency, which is now handed over to Macedonia. But it was marked by the absence in particular of the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia, just as happened on Monday at the official ceremony for the president's taking office. Controversial statements made by President Nikolic soon after his election have not been forgotten: he negated the genocide of Srebrenica and called Vukovar a Serb city. The Croatians consider it a place that has been martyred in the armed conflict with Serbia in the 1990s. President Nikolic did, however, declare his readiness to meet the Croatian and Bosnian leaders at any time, even if they are willing to do so: he went on to express regret at the failure to adopt the summit's final document due the opposition of the Albanian representative. Tirana's Deputy Foreign Minister, Selim Belortaja, in fact claimed that the position of Kosovo is not well represented in the document. In Albania's view, Kosovo has the right to become a full member of SEECP and of other regional initiatives and forums. This is unacceptable to Serbia as it does not recognise the independence of the Pristina government.

According to Belgrade, Kosovo may take part in regional meetings without the full status of other independent states but with a card on which the name 'Kosovo' is accompanied by an asterisk and a footnote pointing out its special position. Such a solution had been agreed in negotiations between the parties, but Pristina interprets the agreement differently. SEECP comprises: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova and Romania.(ANSAmed).

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