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Top U.S., EU Envoys Tell Kosovo That Better Ties With Serbia Will Open Door To Europe

Miroslav Lajcak (left), the EU's special representative for the Pristina-Belgrade Dialogue, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer are seen following meetings with Kosovar political leaders in Pristina on June 1.

Top officials from the United States and the European Union are visiting Kosovo to press its leadership to resume talks on the normalization of ties with former foe Serbia.

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

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer and the EU envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, said a positive outcome of bilateral talks depend on both Pristina and Belgrade.

“The meetings were very useful, and it will help us prepare for a meeting [between Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic]. We want to make sure that the meeting will be successful,” Lajcak said at a news conference on June 1 in Pristina after talks with government officials and opposition politicians.

“Among the EU leadership and the member states, there is increased interest in the region," Lajcak added.

Both the United States and the European Union have repeatedly 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; Kosovo is aiming for NATO membership, too.

Palmer said that Washington strongly supports the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, with the goal of full normalization of relations and mutual recognition.

“That’s the one thing that would put this issue behind the parties and open up the path to membership in the EU for both Serbia and Kosovo,” Palmer said.

The visit came after Lajcak and Palmer met in Brussels last week to talk about the Western Balkans and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

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

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign drove Serb troops out and an international peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but Belgrade and its allies Russia and China don’t.

With reporting by AP