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Clinton-Ashton's Balkan tour carries more symbolism than substance

By Steve Milosevic (Xinhua)

08:47, October 31, 2012

BELGRADE, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Whatever outcome the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton may produce, their tour to the western Balkans carries more symbolism than substance.

When Clinton and Ashton arrive in Belgrade on Tuesday, they come in town in an effort to shore up the recent image of normalization between the Serbian government and Kosovo regime after the reported meeting between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci in Brussels on October 19.

While Thaci called the meeting held under the auspices of the European Union as "a bilateral meeting between two states", Dacic dismissed the notion that his meeting with the Kosovo leader was in any way a signal that Serbia was prepared to recognize the independence of its breakaway southern province.

"Normalization does not involve changing our position on the status of Kosovo. For us, such a notion (of our recognition of Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence) is absolutely unacceptable," Dacic said.

Serbia regards Kosovo, where more than 90 percent of the 2 million population are ethnic Albanians, as an integral part of Serbia, despite it has been recognized by the U.S. and some leading EU countries.

Serbia routinely boycotts any international meetings where representatives of Kosovo receive the status an independent state enjoys.

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