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Belgrade, Pristina overcome dispute ahead of Kosovo local polls

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(BRUSSELS) - Serbia and Kosovo late Monday overcame a dispute over Belgrade's request to visit the breakaway territory ahead of next month's local polls, which had threatened to torpedo a process to normalise ties between the two sides.

"We have agreed to establish a mechanism which would allow Serbian officials to visit Kosovo without problems," said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic after a meeting in Brussels with his Kosovan counterpart, according to Serbian television RTS.

Dacic had sought to visit the southern Serb-majority town of Strpce as campaigning began for the November 3 local elections in Kosovo.

But Pristina on October 2 said it had rejected the request, saying it would "interfere" with the polls.

The rejection prompted Dacic to question if it "makes sense for us to continue the dialogue" with Pristina.

On Monday, the two prime ministers met in Brussels with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The meeting was "important and useful," said Maja Kocijancic, Ashton's spokeswoman.

Following the talks, Thaci said on national television KTV that "Kosovo will respect the accord on the freedom of movement without discrimination".

"If there are requests from the Serbian side in accordance with the procedure in force, it will be treated in an adequate manner," he said.

Dacic meanwhile also said that a deal has been reached to allow people displaced during the Kosovo conflict to be registered to vote in the local elections.

A smooth running of the elections is part of an EU-mediated agreement reached in April between Belgrade and Pristina to normalise relations.

Serbia still rejects Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008.

But under the accord, it has agreed to encourage the Serb minority in the breakaway territory to comply with the Pristina authorities, provided they are given a certain level of autonomy.

Some 40,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo along the border with Serbia proper, but refuse to recognise Pristina authorities.


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