Trump Tells Serb Leader Agreement With Kosovo Is ‘Within Reach’

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump told Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic that a lasting agreement with Kosovo to bring peace to the Balkans was "within reach," even though the latter said he didn’t agree that talks were in the “final phase.”

Serbia and Kosovo have been in talks to find a lasting solution in a process endorsed by the European Union, which demands that they must normalize ties if they want to join its ranks. But that has stalled over issues including redrawing borders, Kosovo’s creation of an army, Serbia’s refusal to recognize it as a state, and a trade war that erupted in November.

Trump’s letter, dated Dec. 14, the same day when Kosovo President Hashim Thaci received a similar version, was published after he and Vucic met this week both in New York for a United Nations Security Council meeting and in Brussels for informal talks with EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“As you enter the final phase of reaching an agreement with Kosovo that will bring long-sought peace to the region, I encourage you to seize this moment and to exercise the political leadership in making decisions needed to balance the interests of both countries,” Trump wrote in a letter, photographed and emailed by Vucic’s office. “An agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is within reach.”

On Wednesday, after Vucic received the letter but before his office published it, the Serbian president said he “cannot fully agree” with the idea that talks are in their “final phase,” according to the Tanjug news service. For any lasting solution, the “Europeans, the UN, Russia and our Chinese partners” would also have to get involved.

For the EU, Trump’s letter is the “signal of support and encouragement to Belgrade and Pristina for the dialog,” Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs and security policy and enlargement, said in Brussels. “The work is ongoing on the legally binding agreement,” which needs to be acceptable to all EU states, she said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.