A senior U.S. official has urged Kosovo’s leaders to rescind or delay a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods to allow normalization talks between the two Balkan neighbors to resume.
David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was visiting Pristina on March 9 a day after stopping in Belgrade, where he called on the two countries to “end mutual provocations” against each other.
In Kosovo, Hale met with President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and parliament speaker Kadri Veseli at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett.
In an interview with three local media outlets, Hale said he urged Serbia and Kosovo to resume bilateral discussions and reach an agreement acceptable to both sides.
He said the United States and Western allies would support any accord reached between the two countries.
Kosovo, in November 2018, imposed a 100 percent import tax on Serbian goods in retaliation for what it called Belgrade's attempts to undermine its statehood, such as spearheading a campaign to scupper Pristina’s bid to join Interpol and blocking it from UN membership.
Washington and the European Union -- both strong allies of the Pristina government -- have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff.
Serbia has refused to restart EU-facilitated normalization talks until the duties are revoked.
Following his talks with Serbian leaders a day earlier, Hale said the “United States calls for the abolition of tariffs, an end to mutual provocations, and resumption of dialogue.”
Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 war.
More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict. NATO troops are still stationed in Kosovo as a protection force.
Prime Minister Haradinaj, in a Facebook post on March 9, invited Serbia to return to the negotiating table and "discuss all open issues, including free trade, and to reach an agreement that will result in the recognition of the existing borders."
President Thaci on March 9 said that Serbia should not place preconditions on talks and that discussions should be "comprehensive and transparent."