Kosovo's president rejects ethnic land swap with Serbia

The president of Kosovo has rejected the idea of dividing the country along ethnic lines to resolve a dispute over its independence from Serbia.

But President Hashim Thaci told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he was open to discussing "a correction" of borders during the difficult European Union-mediated peace negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia.

"Serbia's claim for a Kosovo division will not be successful. It is unacceptable," he said.

In 1999, NATO intervened to stop a bloody Serb crackdown on Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized as a separate nation by more than 100 countries, but not by Serbia.

Tensions remain high after seven years of negotiations, even though the EUs has made it clear to the governments in Pristina and Belgrade they must normalize relations to advance toward membership in the bloc.

Some Serbian government officials have suggested a possible solution could be a land swap based on where ethnic Serb and Albanian minorities are concentrated — Kosovo's northern Mitrovica region for Serbia's Presevo Valley.

Thaci said there would be no "division but a correction of borders," with the possible inclusion of the Presevo Valley in Kosovo. He did not say whether that would involve a swap for northern Mitrovica, where the majority of Kosovo Serbs live.

The president was determined that negotiations with Serbia, under the EU leadership and closely followed by the United States, would result in bilateral recognition soon.

"If the Kosovo-Serbia border correction and the final agreement on mutual recognition are achieved, if such an agreement is of bilateral and balanced, meaning a win-win for both parties, then no one would be against it," he said.


This version has been corrected to show that some Serbian government officials, not the government officially, have suggested a possible land swap with Kosovo.


Llazar Semini contributed from Saranda, Albania.