Serbia to continue dialogue with Kosovo, says Serbia PM

BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has said his government will continue political dialogue with Pristina following the early parliamentary elections held in Kosovo on Sunday.

For the first time since Kosovo's secession from Serbia in 2008, Belgrade encouraged the ethnic Serbs in the country to participate in the elections.

Dubbing the lawmakers chosen by Serbs as Belgrade's "legitimate representatives," Vucic said interests of Serbia would be protected in Kosovo in this way.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared victory in the elections marked by a low turnout on 41.5 percent. With more than 99 percent of the votes having been counted, Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) is five percentage points ahead of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), according to the Central Election Commission.

"The turnout is lower than what we expected. Our dialogue with Pristina has to continue. We will struggle to protect Serbia's interests as part of this dialogue," Vucic said.

Belgrade and Pristina maintained EU-facilitated dialogue after signing a landmark deal last year.

The agreement, hailed by the EU, allowed holding elections in all parts of Kosovo, the establishment of an association of Serb majority municipalities, and the gradual integration of the judiciary and police administrations in northern Kosovo into the country's legal and administrative framework.

Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is recognized by more than 100 states, including the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany and Turkey.

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