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U.S. Envoy Urges Kosovo, Serbia To Focus On Jobs, Economic Development

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U.S. special envoy Richard Grenell (left) meets with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on January 22.

PRISTINA -- The U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo has urged leaders in both countries to overcome their differences and to focus on economic development.

Richard Grenell, who also serves as President Donald Trump’s U.S. ambassador to Germany, said on January 23 in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, that Kosovo should scrap a 100 percent tariff on Serbia’s goods and services, while Belgrade should curb a campaign to reverse the recognition of its former province that declared independence in 2008.

European Union mediation has looked to increase dialogue between the two countries, but Kosovo’s move in November 2018 to set the tariff on Serbian goods and services disrupted reconciliation efforts.

“I’m trying to ignore the political fights and to concentrate on economic development. And because of that I asked [Prime Minister-designate Albin] Kurti and I am going to ask every single political leader here that it’s very important if we want to move forward in economic development, that the 100 percent tariffs be dropped," Grenell said after a meeting with Kurti.

Belgrade has said there will be no further talks until Kosovo lifts or suspends the tariff.

"At the same time that the de-recognition campaign in Serbia should also be dropped. And I think that both of these things have to happen in order for businesses to grow, for us to create jobs for young people. And so, I'm going to be carrying the same message to Belgrade”, said Grenell, who is also scheduled to visit Serbia.

Kurti’s Self-Determination Movement (Vetvendosje) party won the most votes in a snap October election. His party and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), are negotiating an agreement to form a coalition government, but the two parties have been disagreeing on who will fill the posts of president and speaker of the parliament.

On January 22, Grenell said ahead of a meeting with Kosovar President Hashim Thaci that jobs creation for Kosovo's young people "is the mantra of the Trump administration.”

“We are going to push both governments and the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia and say 'look at the people, start moving forward with jobs," Grenell said.

Grenell was appointed by Trump as the special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia in October in an effort to bring the two bitter rivals closer together.

The European Union has linked Serbia’s potential membership with its demands that Belgrade normalize ties with Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia following the 1999 NATO-led war.

Kosovo's independence 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.

With reporting by AP
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