Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj says Kosovo’s tax on Serbian goods is a sovereign decision and not something that can be tied to negotiations with Belgrade on normalizing relations between the two countries.
“The tax is the sovereign decision of the government, and we do not condition the dialogue with the decisions of the Serbian government. I am returning to the negotiating table, but our decision is sovereign,” he said on January 31 after a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett, President Hasim Thaci and parliamentary chief Kadri Veseli.
Both the European Union and Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal a 100 percent tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods that has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.
Kosovo imposed the import tax in November in retaliation for what it called Belgrade's attempts to undermine its statehood.
Belgrade, which says the Kosovo tax has caused serious damage to its businesses, has never recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla war.
More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict.
The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated last year.
But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is fiercely against ceding any territory to Serbia.
Haradinaj noted on January 31 that Kosovo has continued to participate in talks with Serbia even after Belgrade worked to keep it from joining Interpol last year.
"Serbia has taken a lot of decisions but none of them has served to push us not to go to the table of talks," he said.
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said on January 31 in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump that the tax was "a burden and an insurmountable obstacle to continuation of dialogue."
"Belgrade is prepared to continue the dialogue as soon as Pristina has abolished this unreasonable and detrimental measure," Vucic said.