EU drafts new proposal for Kosovo-Serbia ties - senior EU diplomat

TIRANA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - The European Union has drafted a new proposal for normalisation of ties between Kosovo and Serbia with a clear timeline of actions, according to a senior EU diplomat, speaking on the sidelines of the EU-Western Balkans summit on Tuesday.

The draft proposal was sent to both parties on Monday, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. They added that they expected the two parties would reach a final agreement in less than a year.

"There are a lot of things that make it a big step forward with respect to the current situation.... It's not full recognition ...but it is a full normalisation of relations," the diplomat said.

Belgrade and Pristina committed in 2013 to an EU-sponsored dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, but little progress has been made. Agreement with Kosovo remains one of the main pre-conditions for Serbia joining the EU.

"After listening to both parties, we redrafted the proposal," the diplomat said. The proposal contains an annex "with a clear calendar of actions - when and how things have to happen," they said.

The diplomat urged Pristina and Belgrade "to continue in their constructive engagement, and focus on making irreversible progress in normalisation."

On Tuesday in Tirana both Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said they remain committed to an EU-sponsored dialogue.

"We believe that the dialogue that is led by the European Union and fully supported by the United States of America is the only way forward towards reaching a final agreement that is centred on mutual recognition," Osmani-Sadriu said.

She also said Kosovo would apply for EU membership by the end of the year.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 after 11 weeks of NATO air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in a Serbian counter-insurgency.

Recently, tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared when authorities in Kosovo moved to implement a decision to replace Serbian-issued car licence plates in regions where ethnic Serbs form the majority with the one issued by Kosovo authorities. .

"We've always encouraged the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which has to take place in good faith for both sides," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

"Unless this issue is resolved - and in order for it to be resolved both sides need to take a step back - it will be difficult to make the necessary progress regarding completing the integration of the Western Balkans in the European family," he said.

Five Western Balkan states - Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia - are at different stages of an EU entry process.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Fatos Bytyci in Tirana, Ingrid Melander and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Robert Birsel, Alexandra Hudson

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