During their visit to Kosovo, US national security officials have warned that the US might withdraw its military presence if Pristina keeps resisting their appeal on the suspension of tax on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Currently, the US has 650 troops stationed in Kosovo, mainly in the US military base of Bondsteel, the biggest US military base in Europe.
During the meetings they had in Kosovo, the US Principal Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, John Erath and Director for European Affairs at National Security Council, William Berkley, have warned about the withdrawal of US troops if Pristina refuses to revoke the tax.
“They threatened that the US might withdraw its troops from Kosovo as they did in Syria,” a source who attended the meetings said. The two envoys of the US President, Donald Trump, held meetings on Wednesday and Thursday with the top officials from Kosovo.
The US national security officials met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and president Hashim Thaci. Haradinaj was seen leaving the meeting earlier and in a Facebook post he said that the tax will not be suspended. The President issued a press release confirming that the US senior officials had asked the suspension of tax and urged on Kosovo government to revoke the decision which was introduced in November last year.
Thaci met the US national security officials also on Thursday morning and in a press release after the meeting, he said that all members of the Negotiation Team in dialogue with Serbia have agreed “to listen to the US advice and suspend the tax.” But co-head of Negotiation Team and head of opposition party of Social Democrats, PSD, Shpend Ahmeti, refuted Thaci’s claims saying that he disagrees with the suspension of tax.
“The state delegation made no comments on suspension of tax. Furthermore, I have not made any comment during today or other meetings. We just explained to the US officials on why the tax was imposed,” Ahmeti said.
The other co-head of the state delegation and head of the junior coalition partner, Fatmir Limaj, has softened his stance on the tax after meeting the US officials, who until now supported Haradinaj in keeping the tax despite the US and EU advice to do the opposite. Limaj said that the US advice on the resumption of dialogue with Serbia should be taken seriously.
The US delegation warned that, in the event that the current course does not change, Pristina risks serious consequences in regard to its relations with the United States.
(Vecernje Novosti, Gazeta Express, 27.02.2019)
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