Serbia ready to sacrifice EU membership over Kosovo deal
By Aleksandar Vasovic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that he would refuse membership of the European Union if Belgrade does not receive concessions to recognize Kosovo and drops attempts to stop accession to the United Nations.
After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Vucic said that Serbia's future relationship with its former province could not be resolved without Moscow's approval.
"In response to a possible offer (to Serbia) to recognize Kosovo and Kosovo's accession to the UN, and we receive no consideration other than EU membership, our answer would be" no, "" said Vucic.
Serbia, which is holding talks about EU membership, has created a number of conditions for normalizing relations with Kosovo, including the establishment of an association of predominantly Serb communities and special status for medieval Serbian Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries.
She also wants to resolve open issues, including energy and finance issues.
Kosovo, where 90% of the population are Albanians, declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, almost a decade after NATO bombed Serbia to stop the killing and displacement of Albanians in Kosovo during a two-year counterinsurgency program.
Serbia, with its allies Russia and China, has blocked Kosovo's membership in international organizations, including the United Nations.
Lawrow's visit comes three days before the Serbian elections and is generally seen as a sign of support for Vucic in the vote.
Lavrov said the Kremlin would only support solutions to the Kosovo issue, acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council, where Russia has a veto.
"We believe it would be counterproductive to enforce the so-called final normalization and speed it up with artificial deadlines," he said.
Vucic will take part in a parade on Red Square on June 24 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. He will meet President Vladimir Putin, who has visited Serbia twice since 2012.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Giles Elgood)
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