BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Czech president on Wednesday kept up his denigration of Kosovo, suggesting that his government revoke its recognition of Serbia’s former province as an independent nation — an idea promptly dismissed by the Czech Republic’s foreign minister.
Czech President Milos Zeman spoke on the second day of a two-day official visit to Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. During a news conference with Serbian President Aleksadar Vucic, Zeman said while he cannot revoke Kosovo’s recognition on his own, he plans to raise the issue.
“I’m not a dictator,” Zeman said. “But … I will ask the question of whether it (reversal) can be done.”
Zeman, who is known for his frequent offensive statements and diplomatic gaffes, said Tuesday that he likes Serbia and its people but dislikes Kosovo, which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said Wednesday there was no reason for the government to reconsider its decision on Kosovo’s independence but said he was willing to speak with Zeman on the subject.
Kosovo’s outgoing Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli thanked Petricek, tweeting “the Czech Republic is a friend and strong partner of #Kosovo.”
More than 100 countries have recognized Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, including 23 European Union member nations and the United States. Serbia refuses to do so, along with Russia and China.
As EU-mediated talks on normalizing ties between Serbia and Kosovo have stalled, Serbia has stepped up efforts to persuade other countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo. About a dozen, mostly developing African countries, reportedly have done so.
Vucic said Wednesday that a “compromise” was needed to resolve the Kosovo dispute and praised Zeman as a friend of Serbia.
During their news conference, Zeman also denounced Kosovo as a country “run by war criminals.”
Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj recently was summoned by an international court for questioning about alleged war crimes during the Serbian crackdown on Kosovo in 1998-99. No charges have been brought against Haradinaj.
Zeman’s visit also focused on boosting economic ties between Serbia and the Czech Republic.
Karel Janicek contributed to this story from Prague; Llazar Semini from Tirana, Albania.