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U.S. Urges Kosovo To Suspend Serbia Tariff


Serbian products on display in a market in Pristina

The United States has urged Kosovo to immediately suspend a 100 percent tariff on imported Serbian goods, warning otherwise it will suffer "consequences" in its ties with Washington.

Kosovo imposed the import tax on Serbian goods in November in retaliation for what it called Belgrade's attempts to undermine its statehood.

Belgrade has never recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerilla 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.

Both the European Union and the Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff measure that has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.

"We reiterate our view that an immediate suspension of the tariff on imports from Serbia...is one necessary measure to restore momentum to the dialogue process" between the two sides, the U.S. Embassy in Pristina said in a January 25 statement.

Meanwhile, Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told French news agency AFP that a deal between Serbia and Kosovo, which have been in EU-led negotiations to normalize their relations since 2011, was possible this year.

However, Haradinaj said such a deal could not include border changes, warning that territory swaps could revive old enmities in the Balkans.

The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated last year.

But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is fiercely against ceding any ground to Serbia.

"To open the discussion on territories and borders is to open up the past, and the past was tragic," said Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander in Kosovo's independence war.

Borders "were the subject of the past wars", he added.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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