Macron vows to help restart Serbia-Kosovo dialogue

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, pledged to help restart Belgrade-Pristina talks (AFP Photo/Ludovic MARIN)

Belgrade (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday vowed to help restart dialogue and reach a long-lasting agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, former war foes who have been locked in a diplomatic spat for months.

Visiting Serbia's capital Belgrade, Macron said that he would organise a meeting in the coming weeks with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel "in order to find a global and sustainable solution".

Serbia and its former province still have a bitter relationship two decades after the Kosovo war led to Pristina breaking away and later declaring independence.

Belgrade refuses to recognise Kosovo, still considering it to be Serbia's southern province, and the ensuing acrimony has quashed any hopes either country has of joining the European Union.

Kosovo introduced a 100-percent tax on Serbian goods in November, prompting Belgrade to say that the talks would not continue until the decision was revoked.

"Events in the last few months are worrying us and decisions contrary to agreements should be revoked," Macron told reporters after meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

"It is our responsibility to provide necessary support to reach an agreement," Macron added.

The north of Kosovo, which has a significant ethnic Serb population that remains loyal to Belgrade, has in recent days protested against a tariff that has cut off the flow of Serbian goods to the region.

Kosovo says it will not lift the tariffs until Belgrade recognises its independence, while Serbia won't hold a dialogue talk until the levy is dropped.

Macron, the first French president to visit Serbia in 18 years, later surprised a crowd of thousands in Belgrade by speaking in Serbian.

In front of a monument devoted to French-Serbian friendship in the city's medieval fortress Kalemegdan, he called on Serbians to "be brave" and "seek a compromise".

Macron and Merkel have been trying to restart dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia for around a year, calling off a planned summit in July in Paris after no progress was made at a previous Berlin meeting in April.