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U.S. Shifts Focus To Economic Development In Serbia-Kosovo Talks In Washington

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (file photo)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti will meet in Washington on September 3 and 4 as part of long-running negotiations between the Balkan rivals.

The talks will focus on economic development and job creation, a special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump said on September 1 during a call with reporters.

The official said tackling political disputes between Serbia and Kosovo has failed to yield results and the United States aims to focus on tangible economic issues that will help people on the ground.

“We’re going to flip the script, and we’re going to try to first give people some excitement about growth in the economy and let some of these political issues come secondary,” the official said.

The official said the United States is also focused on implementing the air, rail, and motor agreements between the two sides that were already agreed upon.

Ethnic Albanian majority Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade.

Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the European Union, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.

Washington stepped up its involvement in Serbia-Kosovo negotiations last year in a process that runs parallel to nearly a decade of EU-mediated normalization efforts.

The EU-brokered talks have produced multiple agreements seeking to normalize relations in the region, although many of them have not been implemented.

In July, Vucic and Hoti held their first face-to-face negotiations in 20 months under an EU-mediated dialogue process after Kosovo lifted import tariffs on Serbian goods.

At those talks, the two sides focused on issues of missing and displaced persons as well as economic cooperation.

Washington had initially sought to bring the two former foes face-to-face at the White House on June 27.

But those plans were canceled following the indictment of Kosovar President Hashim Thaci at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during or after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

Thaci has denied involvement in any war crimes and has been cooperating with the investigation.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague is currently reviewing the indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.