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Kosovo parties sign long-awaited deal to form government

FILE PHOTO: Albin Kurti, candidate to be Kosovo's Prime Minister, is seen as parliament convenes for the first time since the October snap election, in Pristina, Kosovo, December 26, 2019. REUTERS/Laura Hasani

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s two biggest parties reached a deal on Sunday to create a new government almost four months after the Balkan country held snap elections following the prime minister’s resignation.

Albin Kurti, the 44-year-old leader of the leftist Vetevendosje (Self Determination) party said he would become prime minister under the deal and work with the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and other groups.

“We have signed the deal,” Kurti told a joint press conference with LDK leader Isa Mustafa.

Parliament - where the coalition parties together have 77 of the parliament’s 120 seats - will vote on the agreement on Monday, he added.

The new coalition will also include six groups representing Serbs, Turks, Bosniaks and other ethnic minorities.

The October election, the country’s fourth since declaring independence in 2008, was called after Ramush Haradinaj resigned as prime minister after being summoned for questioning by an EU-funded war crimes court that sits in The Hague.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces accused of expelling and killing ethnic Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency.

One of the biggest challenges for any government will be to negotiate a deal with neighbouring Serbia, which has refused to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Andrew Heavens