Published: 2023-03-18 11:05
Last Updated: 2023-03-27 18:41
Several thousand people protested on Friday evening in Belgrade against a plan on the normalization of ties between Serbia and Kosovo, on the eve of the new round of high-level talks over it, AFP reported.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti are to hold the talks at a meeting on Saturday in North Macedonia that will be chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The negotiations will focus on how to fulfill an 11-point agreement the EU has put on the table designed to help draw a line under decades of enmity between Serbia and its former province that declared independence in 2008.
Some 4,000 people, according to an AFP photographer, gathered Friday in front of Saint Sava cathedral in downtown Belgrade and then marched to the presidency.
"No to capitulation!", read a giant banner carried by the protestors.
"This plan, which is presented to us as a compromise, leads directly to the establishment of a 'Greater Albania'", Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski, head of the ultranationalist group Zavetnici ('Oath Keepers' in Serbian), told the crowd.
Like other speakers, she criticized Vucic's policy over the issue.
"We urge him to reject everything tomorrow in Ohrid. This ultimatum ... it's not an agreement, it's a betrayal."
The crowd chanted "Treason!" and "Long live (Russian President Vladimir) Putin!".
Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo independence and bouts of unrest erupt between local authorities and Kosovo's Serb minority.
The latest talks follow months of shuttle diplomacy to push the EU plan that has been backed by the United States and all 27 leaders from the bloc.
Saturday's meeting comes after the two sides failed to come to an agreement last month in Brussels where the peace plan was unveiled.
Kurti and Vucic have traded barbs since insisting many issues remained unresolved that would prevent an agreement.
Borrell on Thursday urged the two leaders to show "courage" at new talks and agree how to implement the plan.
Normalizing ties between the two sides was "an important step" towards their objectives of one day joining the EU, he wrote in a blog piece.