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US steps up pressure on Kosovo and Serbia to normalize ties

The United States on Thursday stepped up the pressure on Kosovo and Serbia to give concessions and revive efforts to normalize ties.

Pristina, 23 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The United States on Thursday stepped up the pressure on Kosovo and Serbia to give concessions and revive efforts to normalize ties.

US President Donald Trump’s special envoy, Richard Grenell, said that Kosovo needs to scrap punitive import duties on goods from Serbia in order to allow the process to move forward.

Pristina introduced the taxes in November 2018 in response to Belgrade’s campaign aimed at preventing it from joining international organizations. Serbia is also campaigning among UN member states that recognized Kosovo to withdraw their recognition.

“It is important, if we want to move forward…that the tariffs be dropped,” Grenell said, after meeting Kosovo’s likely next prime minister, Albin Kurti, in Pristina. Kurti, who has a tough stance on Serbia, has been struggling to form a coalition deal since the elections in October.

Grenell also said that Belgrade needs to stop the campaign against Kosovo. “The tariffs should be dropped at the same as Serbia drops the de-recognition campaign,” he said.

He is due to fly to Belgrade to meet Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday.

His visit comes after Serbia and Kosovo on Monday agreed to restore direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina after nearly 20 years.

A former province of Serbia, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nine years after the Albanian majority rebelled against Belgrade’s rule. War broke out, drawing NATO into intervening against Serbia.

Serbia still refuses to accept the loss of territory and has agreed to EU-brokered normalization talks only so it can begin moving toward EU membership. But the talks are stalled, with each side blaming the other for the stand-off.

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