A European Union brokered accord between Kosovo and Serbia that ends an almost-two-year dispute over car number-plates is a key step towards a final deal on normalising relations, Italy said on Thursday.
Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani praised Wednesday's agreement in phonecalls with Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo's premier Albin Kurti, said a foreign ministry statement on Thursday.
"During the calls, Minister Tajani expressed Italy’s great satisfaction over the agreement reached last night between Serbia and Kosovo, the statement noted.
Tajani hailed the deal over replacing old licence-plates issued by Belgrade, calling it "the first tangible result" of his and defence minister Guido Crosetto's visit to Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday.
Tajani and Crosetto had travelled to Serbia and Kosovo for talks with top officials "to foster the peace process at a time of great tension,” the statement quoted Tajani as saying.
“It is now necessary to continue along the road towards dialogue and the full normalization of relations between the two countries," Tajani said, according to the statement.
"The future of the Balkans is in Europe, and Italy is ready to play a key role in the region," Tajani underlined.
Kosovo has agreed under the deal with Serbia not to start issuing fines on Thursday to around 10,000 minority ethnic Serb drivers who continue to use Serbian-issued licence-plates, or to confiscate their vehicles.
The EU had warned that rising tensions could escalate into violence in the region over the issue.