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EU signs agreement with Kosovo to strengthen ties

The European Union and Kosovo have signed a deal which will strengthen ties and is seen as moving closer to the country's membership of the body.

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement is the first key step for countries that want to join the bloc.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said the agreement "sealed Kosovo's path" towards joining the EU.

"It is the road of strengthening democracy and building the rule of law, the road of political stability and economic prosperity," he said.

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hailed the deal as "an important contribution to stability and prosperity in Kosovo and the region at large".

However a senior official from Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state, said the agreement "does not and never will mean to us that our province is a separate state".

The US also welcomed the signing of the agreement.

"We welcome this strong sign of Europe’s continued commitment to Kosovo and congratulate the leadership and people of Kosovo for their hard work in achieving this goal." State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.