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Kosovar, Serbian Presidents Hold 'Goodwill' Meeting At White House

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (left) and his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci (combination file photo)

PRISTINA -- Kosovar President Hashim Thaci says he has met with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, at the While House to discuss ways to reach a "final agreement" between the two Balkan countries.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, Thaci said that there were no specific topics discussed during the March 2 talks, which he described as "a goodwill meeting, a message of peace sent to Kosovo, Serbia, and the Western Balkans."

He also said that both sides welcomed the "leading role" of U.S. President Donald Trump and the "dynamism and leadership" of his special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, Richard Grenell.

After the meeting, which was attended by Grenell and national-security adviser Robert O'Brien, Thaci wrote in a post on Facebook that the United States "is our hope and our faith. We are forever grateful!"

The United States is one of the biggest backers of Kosovo's independence from Serbia, which it declared in 2008. Serbia continues to consider its former province part of its territory.

European Union-facilitated talks on normalizing diplomatic relations were derailed in November 2018 by Pristina's imposition of 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and services in response to Belgrade's continued lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo.

The Kosovar government on February 27 announced it would temporarily and partly lift the tariff -- a move described by Grenell, who also serves as U.S. ambassador to Germany and has recently been appointed as Trump's intelligence chief, as a "half-measure."

"Our position is quite clear: the tariffs must be completely dropped," Grenell tweeted, adding that Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti "is making a serious mistake."

However, the EU welcomed Kurti's announcement as a "first step" that "could have a positive effect" on restoring regional trade and "offer an opening" for the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

In a step toward improving ties, Serbian and Kosovar officials earlier this year signed deals to establish air, rail, and highway links between Pristina and Belgrade.