US diplomat: Pristina to revoke the tax, Belgrade to stop campaigning against Kosovo

Philip Reeker, a high-ranking US diplomat, said in Skopje on Monday that official Pristina should suspend the 100 percent import tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia introduced last November, and called on Belgrade to focus on a strategic interest “instead of being aggressive in rejecting Kosovo,” the Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported.

Reeker, who is soon to become an assistant to the State Secretary for Europe and Eurasia, said that neither Kosovo nor Serbia should “risk missing the best chance in a generation” to solve their relations and called on Belgrade and Pristina to remove obstacles in negotiations and let the European Union-facilitated dialogue on normalisation of relations to resume.

“The US invested significant capital in Kosovo’s success as an independent, multi-ethnic and sovereign state. We stood by you on several occasions. But this time we come with the request. The US, as probably your closest international partner, believes that reaching an agreement with Serbia is the only way for Kosovo,” Reeker said.

“A part of that should be Kosovo’s decision to annul the tariffs,” he said, adding the move disturbed Kosovo relations with the US, reiterating Washington’s earlier messages to Pristina.

He added it was “sad and surprising at the same time” that the US still had a serious misunderstanding with Pristina’s authorities regarding the issue, saying, as quoted by Skopje’s daily Nezavisen Vesnik (the Independent Herald), that Kosovo’s independence and sovereignty were not questionable.

Speaking at a seminar within the “Balkan 360” project organised by the German “Marshal Plan”, Reeker added his country understood the frustration of Kosovo’s people and their wish to control own destiny and improve Pristina’s integrations into the international system.”

And he had a message to Belgrade as well.

“With (Serbia’s) campaign to urge countries to withdraw Kosovo’s recognition and to block its membership in the international institutions such as Interpol, Belgrade violated the atmosphere of compromise and progress in an agreement which should secure its European future,” Reeker said.

He added both Belgrade and Pristina should ask themselves what would be an alternative to the normalisation of relations, adding “the frozen conflict does not suit anyone,” since “the absence of a deal means less security, slower economic growth and iced aspiration of joining the EU.”

Reeker said the US did not favour any final deal, and the international community did not dictate the conditions, nor it offered a carte blanche since a solution had to be applicable, lasting and to contribute to the regional security.

“We will seriously consider any agreement which for both sides believe meets these conditions,” Reeker said, reiterating the US already expressed stand regarding the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue.

Reeker, the former US ambassador to Skopje, also met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Northern Macedonia, Nikolai Dimitrov, who congratulated him on his appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Philip Reeker will replace Wes Mitchell in that position, who will remain a civilian deputy and adviser to the head of the European Command of the US Military Forces. He is also due to meet with the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Zoran Zaev.

(Vecernje Novosti, 04.03.2019)


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