US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer as his Special Representative for the Western Balkans who “will lead the US efforts to boost the US’ diplomatic engagement in support of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.”
As Special Representative, Palmer will travel to Slovenia beginning on September 1 to attend the Bled Strategic Forum. He will also represent the United States at the Quint Balkan Directors meeting in Brussels and attend meetings in Vienna and Podgorica, September 4-10.
In addition to serving as the Secretary’s Special Representative, Palmer will continue to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, a position he has held since 2018. Previously, he was Director of the Office of South-Central Europe.
Citing unnamed sources, the US Foreign Policy Journal reported that Palmer was expected to assume the role of US mediator in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
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“In an effort to re-launch the stalled Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, the State Department is expected to appoint a new special envoy for the Balkans aimed at ending the longstanding dispute in Southeast Europe,” the Journal wrote.
Journalist and Balkan affairs expert, Tim Judah says that Palmer is the perfect man for the job owing to his 25-year-long experience with the Balkans as he knows the region perfectly, in addition to being compassionate and realistic.
Still, while it represents a good move showing interest in resolving the said issue, the mere appointment of a US envoy is not necessarily a signal that the dialogue is getting out of the current impasse, he said, adding that it could be a sign of progress if the EU made a similar move – appointed its own envoy.
In speaking to KoSSev, Judah nevertheless pointed out that neither the US nor the EU currently has the level of influence they previously had, and that until a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for Albanian politicians in Kosovo to refuse something to the US.
In practice, this means that he will take on the role of a US mediator in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which has been in a deadlock for a year. Judah thinks it is good that the US has named a person with excellent knowledge of the region and all its key figures.
However, the mere appointment of a US envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, in the midst of volatile political circumstances in both Pristina and Belgrade, is not necessarily a signal of the break in the deadlock that the two leaderships have fallen into, he warned.
(RTS, Blic, 30.08.2019)