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Democrats In Congress Question Trump's 'Heavy-Handed' Approach To Kosovo

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel

Two Democratic U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about what they say is a “heavy-handed approach” by the Trump administration toward Kosovo’s government.

At the same time, the lawmakers say, “U.S. public pressure on Serbia appears to have been dropped."

The lawmakers called on President Donald Trump’s administration to continue U.S. diplomatic efforts to help “resolve the Kosovo-Serbia conflict in a way that’s fair to both countries and consistent with U.S. law and long-standing policy.”

The concerns were sent in a letter to Pompeo on April 13 by Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The Trump administration’s lack of balance between Belgrade and Pristina is taking place in the context of Serbia expanding ties with Moscow and increasing imports of Russian armaments,” the letter says.

The Democratic lawmakers said Belgrade’s weapons purchases from Russia “require the administration to impose sanctions on Serbia” under legislation “passed by Congress in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 [U.S.] elections.”

“Please inform us why the administration has neither imposed those sanctions nor actively pressured Serbia to end its global” efforts against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the letter says.

Kosovo was an autonomous province of Serbia when war broke out there in the late 1990s between ethnic Albanian separatists and Belgrade’s security forces.

NATO launched air strikes against Serbia in 1999 in response to Belgrade’s widespread crackdown against ethnic Albanian Kosovars and a United Nations’ administration was set up in Pristina after the NATO campaign.

Since 2008, when Pristina unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, Kosovo has received recognition from more than 100 countries.

But Belgrade, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, has launched counterefforts to try to convince countries to drop their recognition.

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