U.S. Diplomats Urge Serbia and Kosovo to Strike Deal This Year

(Bloomberg) -- Serbia and Kosovo need to get back to negotiations and reach an agreement this year or risk missing “the best opportunity for an entire generation,” U.S. ambassadors to the two Balkan countries said in a joint statement.

Almost two decades since the war between Serbs and ethnic Albanians led to Western military intervention and Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, the two nations should resolve their differences. The “status quo impedes economic and political progress of both countries,” Ambassadors Philip Kosnett and Kyle Scott said in the statement published by newspapers in both Balkan capitals.

“We are convinced that sober political leadership, with a vision, can lead to a comprehensive agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, centered around mutual recognition,” they wrote.

Years of European Union-mediated talks between the two sides made modest progress before all but collapsing last year when Serbia stepped up lobbying against international recognition of Kosovo, which, in return, slapped a 100 percent tax on all imports from Serbia.

“It’s time for Kosovo to abolish the taxes, that Serbia responds in a constructive way, and to stop with provocations from both sides,” according to the ambassadors. “If you do so, we are optimist that you can reach a historic agreement in 2019 on normalization.”

The diplomats urged the two Balkan leaders to show the same “courage and creativity” as the governments of ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece that recently resolved their decades-old name dispute.

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