EU official: no clash with US over Kosovo talks

BELGRADE, Serbia — The European Union’s top diplomat said Friday there is no clash with the United States over the two powers’ parallel efforts to bring Serbia and Kosovo back to the negotiating table.

EU-mediated negotiations between the wartime Balkan foes started in 2011, but broke down over a year ago when Kosovo imposed 100% tariffs on Serbian goods.

Meanwhile, the U.S. stepped in, with senior American officials last week brokering tentative deals to resume air and railway links between the two states that have been suspended for 21 years.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who was on his first trip to the Balkan region, said Friday Brussels isn’t in a race with Washington and that they are working together to achieve a result.

“There is no difference between the United States and the European Union in our approach to Kosovo,” Borrell said.

“During my visit to Kosovo (on Thursday) everybody was asking about it, how controversial is the relationship with the United States with respect to Kosovo. It is not controversial at all,” he said.

”I think everybody understands that without an agreement of the U.N. Security Council, Kosovo will not be a state recognized by the international community. It depends not only on the will of Washington,” the Spanish diplomat said

Serbia’s intervention against Kosovo’s independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 prompted NATO to intervene to stop the conflict.

Serbia and its allies Russia and China don’t accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, although Serbia’s former province has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the U.S. and most EU nations.

During his visit to Serbia and Kosovo, Borrell called for quick resumption of the dialogue, saying it’s the only way to normalize ties and bring them closer to the EU.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the joint news conference that Serbia is ready to resume the negotiations as soon as Kosovo abolishes the 100% per cent tax.

In Belgrade, Borrell urged Serbia to align its foreign policies with the EU as it gets closer to membership in the bloc. Serbia has refused to introduce sanctions against Slavic ally Russia over Moscow’s policies in Ukraine and has lately strengthened military and political ties with the Kremlin and China.

“As every country negotiating access, Serbia should progressively align its foreign policy with the one of the European Union,” Borrell said.

Dusan Stojanovic, The Associated Press

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