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Top EU Diplomat Borrell Renews Effort For Direct Kosovo-Serbia Talks


EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (file photo)

PRISTINA -- The European Union's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, has emphasized the need for bilateral dialogue to resume between Serbia and Kosovo, saying it was the most effective way for them to mend ties.

During his first visit to Kosovo on January 30, Borrell continued the EU's policy of mediation, which has sought to bring the two countries back to the negotiation table after talks broke down in November 2018 when Pristina imposed a 100-percent tax on Serbian goods over Belgrade’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

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

"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."

The EU's top diplomat also stressed that the bloc was not competing with the United States in facilitating dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. On the contrary, Borrell said that Brussels and Washington are "working together to achieve a result."

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.

Brussels started mediation in 2011 amid strained relations between Pristina and Belgrade that have lingered since the Kosovo war that ended in 1999 after claiming more than 10,000 lives and leaving more than 1 million people homeless.

NATO intervened to stop the conflict.

Kosovo's independence, declared in 2008, has not been recognized by Belgrade, Russia, and five EU nations. The United States and more than 110 other countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence.

Borell added that the EU would not be complete until Western Balkan countries joined the bloc but said a decision to grant visa-free travel to the European Union to Kosovo citizens was up to EU member states.

Kosovo is the only Western Balkan nation not to have been granted visa-free EU travel.

Later, Borrell met with representatives of political parties and civil society.

However, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Kadri Veseli, told journalists he would not be meeting with Borrell in protest at the EU's decision not to grant Kosovars visa-free travel.

After his visit in Kosovo, Borrell will travel to Serbia on January 31.

With reporting by AP