PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) – Kosovo’s parliament will convene for an urgent parliamentary session to back a potentially historic deal with Serbia brokered by the European Union, the prime minister said Saturday.
Hashim Thaci appealed to the 120-seat legislature to “make the right decision” and support an effort to normalize relations with Serbia. The session has been called for Sunday evening.
“I trust Kosovo institutions and its leaders will make the best decision in the interest of the country and the interest of the citizens,” Thaci told reporters in the capital, Pristina.
Blerim Shala, a Kosovo negotiator, told The Associated Press by phone Saturday the draft agreement needs only formal approval by the assembly.
“This would be the green light to accept the agreement,” he said, referring to Sunday’s session. However, he said a formal agreement that could be signed next week would need to be ratified by parliament because it will contain an implementation plan. Serbia’s parliament also needs to ratify any final agreement.
Friday’s deal, announced in Brussels, followed months of tense negotiations between Thaci and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.
The agreement would allow Serbs to police and manage the north of Kosovo, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Serbs, in exchange for nominal recognition of the authority of the Kosovo government. It also calls for the two sides not to obstruct one another as they seek eventual membership in the EU.
Serb President Tomislav Nikolic said on Saturday the deal provides for protection of Serbs in Kosovo, but reiterated that Serbia hasn’t and will never recognize an independent Kosovo.
“Unfortunately, so many years after our soldiers left … this was the only possible solution that would guarantee peaceful life for our people,” Nikolic said.
Details about how the deal would be implemented on the ground remain murky especially since Kosovo Serbs have said they will not accept any authority coming from Pristina’s ethnic Albanians.
Dacic told the state Serbian TV that “this is the best we could get, and this is the first time that the Serbs in Kosovo have won international recognition.”
NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to force its troops out of Kosovo and end a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians. Serbia rejects Kosovo’s 2008 secession.
Associated Press writer Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia contributed to this report
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)