BRUSSELS — Serbia and Kosovo reached a tentative but potentially historic agreement Friday to normalize relations between the Balkan neighbors, end years of acrimony and put them both on a solid path to European Union membership.
The tentative deal followed months of tense negotiations and showed the determination of both Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said EU negotiator Catherine Ashton.
"What we are seeing is a step away from the past and for both of them a step closer to Europe," Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said.
In what would be an extraordinary change, the deal appeared to recognize the authority of the Kosovo government over northern Kosovo, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Serbs.
But Dacic appeared to indicate there was a chance the deal could still fizzle, saying Serbia's top leadership would decide whether to accept it "in the next few days."
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008. Over the years, Serbia has said it would never recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo, which is considered by Serbia's nationalists to be the cradle of the country's medieval statehood and religion.
Serbia relinquished control of most of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO chased its troops out of the region after a three-month bombing campaign. Ending the partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and the Serb-controlled north — about a fifth of the country — is a key condition of Serbia's further progress toward EU membership.