US urges Kosovo to resume dialogue with Serbia

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PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A top U.S. official on Friday urged Kosovo and Serbia to resume dialogue on normalizing their ties, saying the issue has an enormous impact on their peoples and on the broader region.

Matthew Palmer, a U.S. special representative for the Western Balkans, said during a visit to Kosovo that the dialogue would “free both Serbia and Kosovo from the legacy of hostility that drains their focus and their energies, and it will open up economic opportunities.”

After the counting of Oct. 6 snap election results is completed, Kosovo is expected to form a government led by the left-wing Self-Determination Movement of Albin Kurti.

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

Kurti has said he isn’t in any rush to restart formal talks with Belgrade.

Speaking to students and civil organization members Palmer urged Kosovo’s expected new Cabinet to “breathe new life into dialogue,” acknowledging it will be “a challenge that demands wide consensus and public support.”

“Your statehood is irreversible,” Palmer said.

“We cannot see a path forward to the full integration of your country into the international system that does not include reconciliation with Serbia,” he added.

Palmer also warned that Serbia will never achieve its goal of joining the EU unless it solves the dispute with Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO bombing ended a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Its independence has not been recognized by Serbia.

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

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