Western Envoys Visit Kosovo, Serbia to Defuse Tensions

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) -- Western envoys on Friday were visiting Kosovo and Serbia as part of their ongoing efforts to defuse and possibly reach a reconciliation agreement between the two.

Envoys from the United States and the European Union were joined by those of France, Germany and Italy to meet with Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Later in the day they move to Belgrade to meet with President Aleksandar Vucic to discuss the next steps in the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

It is not clear whether there is any new proposal or what steps might be taken.

Last month the Western powers mediated a solution to an increasing alarming situation in northern Kosovo where Serbs erected barricades on the main roads in protest at the arrest of a former police officer.

The situation in the north remains volatile as there are only a few dozen police officers of the European Union rule of law mission, known as EULEX, taking care of the area's security after all ethnic Serb representatives resigned from their posts in November.

Tensions have been high in Kosovo since 2008, when it proclaimed independence from Serbia. Belgrade, supported by its allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo's statehood, which is accepted by the U.S. and much of the West.

Serbia's bloody crackdown against the majority Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999 ended with a 78-day NATO bombing which also pushed Serbian troops, police and paramilitary forces out of Kosovo.