Serbia's foreign minister said Monday the capture of Ratko Mladic and progress in Kosovo talks reflects his country's desire for a stable Balkans, not pressure from the European Union.
Vuk Jeremic said Serbia is ready to work on resolving the impasse over Kosovo _ which declared independence three years ago _ although Belgrade remains firm in its resolve not to cross "red lines" that would mean recognizing an independent state.
Jeremic spoke to The Associated Press after addressing the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Two days earlier in Brussels, Serbia and Kosovo agreed on several issues _ the first such progress since Kosovo's declaration.
Jeremic said progress came after Kosovo's negotiators "moderated their demands," without going into details.
An EU statement said the two sides reached agreements on civil registry, freedom of movement and acceptance of university and school diplomas.
The talks have so far been restricted to practical nuts-and-bolts matters and have not touched on more substantive issues such as mutual recognition. Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia three years ago, rejects any talks that question its independence, while Serbia _ which considers Kosovo the cradle of its statehood and religion _ refuses to recognize Kosovo's declaration of sovereignty.
Serbia last month arrested Ratko Mladic, the fugitive Bosnian Serb general sought by a U.N. war crimes court on charges including genocide during the Bosnian war, removing a major hurdle toward EU membership. Mladic was arraigned on Monday in The Hague.
The Kosovo dispute continues to pose a barrier for the EU aspirations of both Serbia and Kosovo, however.
Asked if Serbia felt EU pressure to resolve the impasse, Jeremic said that Serbia's Kosovo agenda was driven not by the EU, "but our determination to get some issues resolved ... when it comes to stabilizing the areas of the Balkans."
"We are not going to accept ... pressure but we will continue to be constructive if there is a process that is fair and balanced," he said.
The new accord will allow Kosovo's citizens to cross into Serbia's territory with personal IDs, but not with the new Kosovo passports. It also covers car insurance and vehicle license plates.
This would permit Kosovo's citizens to travel overland to the EU through Serbia, instead of using the much more circuitous route via Montenegro and Croatia.
Saturday's meeting brought the issues of telecoms, land registers, customs procedures and energy closer to agreement, the EU statement said.
Kosovo has been recognized by 76 nations, including 22 of the EU's 27 member states. But Serbia has successfully blocked its membership in the United Nations, where many countries share its rejection of unilateral declarations of independence by separatist regions.
The United States and many in the EU insist Kosovo's statehood is a special case because it arose after a brutal Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign against Albanian separatists that led to an international administration in 1999, when NATO ejected Serb forces.
Jeremic said that _ outside of refusal to recognize Kosovo's independence _ Serbia had been ready for compromise from the start of the talks and suggested that the small gains achieved at the negotiations Saturday were due to newfound willingness by the Kosovo team to do the same.
"We were taking this view all along," he said. "But I am very, very happy that at the end of the day everybody else is engaging in this same attitude."