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EU Top Envoy Says No Clash With U.S. Over Kosovo Talks

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell

The European Union’s top diplomat said on January 31 in Belgrade that the bloc was not competing with the United States in facilitating dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reiterated that Brussels and Washington are “working together to achieve a result.”

EU-mediated negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina started in 2011, but broke down more than a year ago when Kosovo imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods.

Last week, a team of U.S. diplomats led by Richard Grenell, the special U.S. envoy to the Balkan nations, brokered two deals for Kosovo and Serbia to resume air and railway links, which have been suspended for 21 years.

“There is no difference between the United States and the European Union in our approach to Kosovo,” said Borrell, who was on his first trip to the Balkan region.

“During my visit to Kosovo [on January 30] everybody was asking about it, how controversial is the relationship with the United States with respect to Kosovo. It is not controversial at all,” he said.

”I think everybody understands that without an agreement of the UN Security Council, Kosovo will not be a state recognized by the international community. It depends not only on the will of Washington," the Spanish diplomat said

Serbia's military campaign against Kosovo's independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 prompted NATO to step in to stop the conflict.

Serbia and its allies Russia and China don’t recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence. Serbia’s former province has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the United States and most EU nations.

During his visit to Serbia and Kosovo, Borrell called for a speedy resumption of the dialogue, saying it's the only way to normalize ties and bring them closer to the EU.

At a joint news conference with Borrell in Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Serbia is ready to resume the negotiations as soon as Kosovo abolishes the 100 percent tax.

Borrell urged Serbia to align its foreign policies with the EU as it gets closer to membership in the bloc. Serbia has refused to introduce sanctions against Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine and has lately strengthened military and political ties with the Kremlin and China.

“As every country negotiating access, Serbia should progressively align its foreign policy with the one of the European Union," Borrell said.

On January 30, Borrell said after meeting with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci in Pristina, “My duty, my task, my endeavor, my objective, is to accompany, facilitate the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo."

“Because the problem can only be solved by Serbia and Kosovo…and the result can only come from an agreement between the two of them,” Borrell said. "There is no other solution.”

With reporting by AP