U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy for talks between Balkan rivals Serbia and Kosovo has met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.
Richard Grenell, recently appointed as U.S. special envoy to Kosovo-Serbia, traveled to Belgrade from Kosovo as part of a renewed push to restart negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries.
The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade said Grenell is carrying "a simple message from @POTUS [President of the United States]. The people of Serbia and Kosovo want peace, economic development, jobs, and a better life for their children."
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a decade of fighting an insurgent war amid a crackdown by former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Serbia, China, Russia, and five European Union countries don’t recognize Kosovo’s statehood, although more than 110 countries, including the United States, do.
Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina started in 2011, but has since stalled. A bone of contention includes a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods.
Until tensions defuse and relations stabilize, the EU has said prospects of Kosovo and Serbia joining the 28-member bloc remain dim.
Officials see the appointment of Grenell, who is also the current U.S. envoy to Germany, as a sign of stepped-up U.S. engagement.
Grenell on October 9 visited Kosovo, where he met with President Hashim Thaci and Albin Kurti, the likely new prime minister and the leader of Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, which emerged as the single strongest in the early election on October 6.
Grenell said he hoped the representatives of Belgrade and Pristina would meet soon and find a solution to normalize the relations.
Both Grenell and the EU’s likely future foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, have stated normalizing relations between the neighboring countries is a priority.
According to a statement released by Vetevendosje, Kurti reiterated during his talks with Grenell that “the content and the process of reaching the agreement (with Serbia) are more important for its sustainability than the timeline.”
Grenell and Kurti also talked about fighting corruption in Kosovo, the Vetevendosje statement said, adding that they both agreed the high level of corruption in the 1.8-million country is an obstacle for foreign investors.
Thaci's office said in a statement that the Kosovo president told Grenell that his visit was “the biggest [sign of] attention from the U.S. for Kosovo since 2008." Kosovo declared independence in 2008.