Serbia and Kosovo agree to normalise economic ties at US-brokered talks
Negotiations on the normalization of political relations postponed to next year
Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize economic relations, US President Donald Trump said Friday, welcoming a “major breakthrough” that will help the two Balkan countries achieve economic progress after decades of war and failed negotiations..
Both countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia have agreed to freeze talks on the normalization of political relations for a year to allow the economic agreement to solidify, US administration officials said..
Trump, speaking at the Oval Office after the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia signed an agreement, said Belgrade has also committed to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and Kosovo and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic relations..
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that there are still many differences between Serbia and its former autonomy, which declared independence in 2008, clarifying that Friday’s agreement was a huge step forward..
Kosovo Prime Minister Avdulla Hoti also welcomed the agreement and said it should lead to mutual recognition of the two countries, which is a key issue dividing the two neighbors..
“Serbia and Kosovo are committed to normalizing economic ties,” Trump said, accompanied by Vucic, Hoti and many foreign policy advisers. “By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries have achieved a major breakthrough.”.
“After a brutal and tragic story and many years of failed negotiations, my administration has come up with a new way of bridging the gap, focusing on job creation and economic growth,” Trump said. “I think this will work very well.”.
He said that the decision to normalize economic ties required “tremendous courage” from both leaders..
The announcement comes after two days of high-level talks between leaders with the participation of senior Trump aides, and follows a historic pact negotiated with the Trump administration to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates..
Trump Seeks To Strengthen International Dealting Practices Ahead Of Nov. 3 Election.
The signing of the agreement on Friday was originally scheduled to take place in the Roosevelt Hall in the White House, with two tables at which leaders could sit down and sign the agreement. But the ceremony was suddenly moved to the Oval Office, where Trump’s desk sat between the tables of the two leaders. Trump’s advisers went out of their way to highlight his role in reaching the deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Kosovo’s decision to recognize Israel, as well as Kosovo’s and Serbia’s plans to open embassies in Jerusalem.
Serbia will be the first European country to open an embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, and Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority country to open an embassy in Israel’s official capital. So far, only two countries have done this: the United States and Guatemala..
Kosovo, which is dominated by Muslim Albanians, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 following a 1999 NATO campaign in which the United States participated to contain the war and stop the Belgrade-backed ethnic cleansing
Serbia, backed by its traditional ally, Russia, has refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo, a precondition for Belgrade’s membership in the European Union.
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who chaired the meetings, said expanding economic ties and mutual recognition of professional licenses could pave the way for political solutions in the future..
He said the deal would also boost US investment, but did not provide details..
A senior EU official said on Monday that EU-led talks to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, which broke off in 2018 but resumed in July, could lead to an agreement within months..
Negotiations in the United States were slated to take place in June but were postponed after Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was indicted for alleged war crimes during the 1998-99 uprising against Serb rule. He denied the accusations.