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U.S. Envoy Calls On Serbia, Kosovo To End ‘Mutual Provocations’

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic (right) meets with U.S. envoy David Hale in Belgrade on March 8.
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic (right) meets with U.S. envoy David Hale in Belgrade on March 8.

A senior U.S. envoy has urged feuding neighbors Serbia and Kosovo to stop provoking each other and to resume talks aimed at normalizing relations.

David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, on March 8 also called on Kosovo to withdraw its 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods to allow European Union-led talks between the former wartime foes to restart.

"The United States calls for the abolition of tariffs, an end to mutual provocations, and resumption of dialogue," Hale said in a Serbian-language tweet issued by the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.

The remarks come after Hale met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. He is scheduled to meet with Kosovar leaders in Pristina on March 9.

Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla 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.

In 2013, Pristina and Belgrade committed to EU-sponsored dialogue meant to resolve all unsolved issues but little progress has been made.

Vucic has repeatedly said Serbia will not resume talks with Kosovo until it abolishes import tariffs.

Pristina has insisted that Serbia fully recognize its independence and stop its efforts to block Kosovo from joining the United Nations and other international organizations.

On March 6, Kosovo's parliament adopted a 12-point negotiating platform that stipulates mutual recognition between Serbia and Kosovo, while preserving current borders between the two.

Vucic told Hale that Kosovo's platform "amounts to a decision by Pristina to halt dialogue with Belgrade" because it leaves no room for compromise, according to a statement by the Serbian presidential office.

In a speech later on March 8, Vucic called Kosovo's negotiating platform an "ultimatum" aimed at "humiliating Serbia."

"I will never agree to that. With those who don't want the talks, there are no talks and there will be no talks," Vucic told supporters.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and RFE/RL’s Balkan Service
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