POLITICS

2 US Senators promote closer Serbia-Kosovo ties in Balkans visit

May 23, 2023, 1:42 PM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Two U.S. Senators said Tuesday they hope that European Union-backed negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia can achieve results this year in resolving the dispute between the two countries and normalizing their relations.

The Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Gary Peters were visiting Albania’s capital Tuesday following a stop in Kosovo during a trip that also will take them to Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

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, Russia and China have not.

Washington and Brussels have stepped up efforts to help solve the Kosovo-Serbia dispute, fearing further instability in Europe as the war rages in Ukraine. The European Union has made it clear to both Serbia and Kosovo they must normalize relations to advance in their intentions to join the bloc. The two sides have tentatively agreed to back a EU plan on how to proceed, but tensions continue to simmer.

“Time is of the essence. That agreement is incredibly important,” Murphy said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I see no reason why both Kosovo and Serbia shouldn’t implement that agreement by the end of this year.”

Murphy said the two Senators had pressed Kosovo “to live up to their end of the bargain” and would do the same in Serbia later this week. “This agreement requires sacrifice on both sides,” he said.

Peters said an agreement would “resolve a lingering problem that is actually impeding economic progress in this region.”

Forces from NATO member nations and other countries have launched a two-week joint military exercise in Albania and other Balkan states aimed at building readiness and interoperability between U.S. and NATO allies and partners while demonstrating the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy troops and equipment to Europe.

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Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

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