- Associated Press - Thursday, October 10, 2019

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for talks between Balkan rivals Serbia and Kosovo traveled to Serbia’s capital Thursday as part of a renewed push to restart negotiations to resolve a main problem left over from violent breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, met with Serbia’s president in Belgrade a day after he was in Kosovo for his first trip to the region since Trump appointed him a week ago.

“The goal is to bring our partners in Serbia and Kosovo together for a comprehensive solution to resolve points of conflict in the region,” said a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. “Both sides will need to work closely and quickly, with an eye toward the future.”

Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade said Grenell was carrying the message that “the people of Serbia and Kosovo want peace, economic development, jobs, and a better life for their children.”

Officials in Serbia and Kosovo see Grenell’s appointment as a sign of stepped-up U.S. engagement.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008, a decade after a bloody 1998-99 war in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian fighters and Serbian forces. Belgrade still considers Kosovo to be Serbian territory, not a separate country.

Washington and its allies have recognized Kosovo’s independence, while Russia, China and five EU nations have backed Belgrade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called for a “compromise solution” to resolve the dispute, according to the statement his office issued after Thursday’s meeting with Grenell. Such a solution could be achieved if Serbia’s legitimate interests are respected, Vucic said.

European Union-backed negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries have been stalled for almost a year. Serbia has insisted the talks can resume only after Kosovo abolishes a 100% tax the government as imposed on Serbian imports to retaliate for Belgrade’s efforts to undermine Kosovo’s statehood.


AP Writer Geir Moulson contributed to this report.

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