Top US, EU envoys visit Kosovo to promote talks with Serbia

International

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Top officials from the United States and the European Union on Monday visited Kosovo to urge the tiny Western Balkan country to resume talks on the normalization of ties with its former war foe Serbia.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer started a three-day visit by meeting with opposition Kosovo Democratic League party leaders.

The EU envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, already arrived in Pristina on a two-day visit to meet with the country’s top politicians.

Kosovo’s new government, led by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who took office in March, has said it’s focused in fighting the pandemic and that talks with Serbia are not high on its list of immediate goals.

EU-facilitated negotiations to normalize ties between Serbia and its former province started a decade ago and stalled last year.

Lajcak and Palmer met in Brussels last week to talk about Western Balkans and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. They will have a joint news conference on Tuesday.

Both Washington and Brussels have clearly said that normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo are essential for their further integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Serbia and Kosovo have both applied for EU membership one day and Kosovo aims at NATO membership too.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a 1998-1999 war between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign that drove Serb troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty, but Serbia and allies Russia and China don’t. Tensions over Kosovo remain a source of volatility in the Balkans.

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