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Serbia, Albania pledge cooperation despite Kosovo

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(BELGRADE) - Serbia and Albania, deeply divided over the independence of Kosovo, pledged Thursday to improve their relations as they both seek to join the European Union.

In the first-high level contact between the two countries in over five years, Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta visited Belgarde on Thrusday, which he said marked a "new era of relations" and will prove "a milestone for stability in the region."

Describing Meta's visit as "historic", Jeremic said the two ministers have "confirmed the mutual stance that the future of entire Western Balkans is in the European Union."

Relations between Belgrade and Tirana have been strained over Kosovo, first over Albania's support for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo during the 1998-1999 conflict there, and then over its support for Kosovo's independence drive.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, and Albania was among the first countries to recognise Pristina's unilateral declaration of independence.

"These differences have not been overcome in today's talks, but it is extremely positive that we agreed to make our best efforts to isolate them in a way that will not further burden our other relations" Jeremic said.

Beside Jeremic, Meta met with Serbian President Boris Tadic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic.

Meta and Dacic signed an accord on cooperation against organized crime and illegal drug and arms trafficking.

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