NATIONAL NEWS

USAID chief optimistic on Serbia-Kosovo talks, pledges support

May 12, 2023, 8:45 AM

FILE - USAID Administrator Samantha Power is interviewed by the Associated Press, Thursday, Aug. 4,...

FILE - USAID Administrator Samantha Power is interviewed by the Associated Press, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at USAID Headquarters in Washington. The United States’ top international development official has said Washington paid special attention to the urgency of moving forward in the European Union-facilitated talks on normalization steps between Kosovo and Serbia, the two former war foes. USAID Administrator Samantha Power visited Kosovo in the last two days after three days earlier to Serbia, saying her country’s focus now was on “the importance of implementation of the agreements that will produce a normalization that will be incredibly important for Kosovo and for Serbia.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The United States’ top international development official on Friday said Washington is focusing on the urgency of normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia in EU-brokered talks between the two former war foes.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power has been in Kosovo for the past two days, following a three-day visit to Serbia.

As the most senior representative of U.S. President Joe Biden to visit Kosovo recently, she said her country’s focus now was on “the importance of implementation of the agreements that will produce a normalization that will be incredibly important for Kosovo and for Serbia.”

Over the two days of her trip, Power visited a local farm and food processing facility. She met with young entrepreneurs at a hub for innovation and also spoke to young peacemakers bridging divides between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Normalization is going to be really, really good for business,” she said at a news conference. “The good that normalization will do for the young people of this country cannot be overstated.”

In February, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met and gave tacit approval to the EU’s 11-point plan. During a March summit in North Macedonia, the two leaders tentatively agreed on implementation.

“We are hopeful that the parties will come to the next stage of EU-mediated discussions with very specific proposals,” said Power.

Washington and Brussels have stepped up efforts to help solve the dispute, fearing further instability in Europe as the war rages in Ukraine.

Both Serbia and Kosovo have been told they must normalize relations to advance in their intentions to join the EU. The two sides have tentatively agreed to back an EU plan on how to proceed, but tensions continue to simmer.

Power acknowledged the political choices ahead for both countries were very difficult.

“That’s why they lie ahead. If they were easy, they would have been choices made a long time ago,” she said.

Power spoke on two contesting issues, first urging Kosovo to proceed on the establishment of an association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, which would coordinate work on education, health care, land planning and economic development at the local level.

A 2013 agreement on that plan was later declared unconstitutional by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, which ruled that it wasn’t inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail the use of executive powers.

Power also urged Kosovo Serbs to return to their jobs in local government institutions in the north of the country, where most of the ethnic Serb minority is located. They boycotted those posts in November and a snap election vote last month in protest at the establishment of the association.

The conflict in Kosovo erupted in 1998 when separatist ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbia’s rule, and Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown. About 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died. NATO’s military intervention in 1999 eventually forced Serbia to pull out of the territory.

Washington and most European Union countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state but Serbia, along with Russia and China, has not.

___

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

___

Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

National News

Associated Press

2 killed in 2 shootings with police officers in South Carolina over the weekend

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Two armed men were shot and killed in separate episodes with law enforcement over the weekend in South Carolina after officers responded to reported gunfire, authorities said. In Spartanburg County, deputies heard and saw shots being fired as they arrived to a fight in a pool between intoxicated people at a […]

46 minutes ago

Associated Press

2 of 9 people wounded in Michigan mass shooting at splash pad remain hospitalized, sheriff says

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Two of the nine people wounded in a weekend shooting at a suburban Detroit splash pad remain hospitalized in critical condition, including an eight-year-old boy who has “made amazing progress” after he was shot in the head, authorities said Monday. The child’s 4-year-old brother was shot in the leg, and the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden’s Title IX rule blocked by judge in 6 additional states

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new Title IX rule expanding protections for LGBTQ+ students in six additional states, dealing another setback for a policy that has been under legal attack by Republican attorneys general. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves referred to the regulation as “arbitrary […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

6 people, including 3 children, killed in a Georgia house fire, authorities say

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — Six people, including three children, were killed in a fire that destroyed a home southwest of Atlanta early Monday, the local coroner said. The children’s ages were 6, 12 and 13, the Coweta County Coroner’s Office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The oldest victim was 70, authorities said. Their identities were not […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Man on fishing trip drowns trying to retrieve his keys from a lake. Companion tried to save him

HASTINGS, N.Y. (AP) — A man drowned in a lake in upstate New York after his keys fell into the water and he tried to retrieve them, police said. Anthony Davis, 44, was fishing with two other men in Oneida Lake in the town of Hastings just before 10 a.m. Sunday when Davis’ keys fell […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawmakers seek health care and retirement protections for Steward Health Care workers

BOSTON (AP) — A group of Democratic members of Congress, led by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, is seeking reassurances that workers at hospitals owned by Steward Health Care will have their health care and retirement benefits protected. Steward last month said it plans to sell off all its hospitals after announcing that it filed […]

5 hours ago

USAID chief optimistic on Serbia-Kosovo talks, pledges support