Thousands protest against Western-backed Kosovo normalization deal

Thousands protest against Western-backed Kosovo normalization deal

People marching on March 17, 2023, no to capitulation, during a protest against the Serbian authorities and French-German plan for the resolution of Kosovo in Belgrade, Serbia. PHOTO AP BELGRADE - Several thousand people gathered in Belgrade to protest against a Western-backed deal to normalize ties between Kosovo and Serbia, which they view as recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Serbia's constitution considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory, even though it declared independence in 2008 with US and European Union backing. Bilateral ties need to be mended for Serbia and Kosovo to achieve their strategic goal of joining the EU.

Protesters held Serbian flags and banners reading Kosovo is not for sale, Serbia, not the European Union, and No to capitulation. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is due to meet Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and EU officials on Saturday in Ohrid, North Macedonia to discuss the deal on normalizing ties both parties agreed to last month.

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"The deal implies that we recognise Kosovo, which is not acceptable," Bogdan, a 26-year old student protestor who refused to give his last name, said in an interview.

Protesters in front of the Saint Sava Church in Belgrade walked to the presidency building.

Milos Jovanovic, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, said this is just the beginning of the protest.

It is a recognition of Kosovo, whether you say it explicitly or whether it is implied indirectly, it is still recognition and it is not acceptable. AM: PM: Kosovo accepts the peace deal with Serbia, with caveats.

In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of Serbia bombed Serbia in response to the expulsion of majority Albanians by Serb forces in Kosovo.