A U.S. State Department official urged Kosovo to end taxes on Serbian goods so that European Union-mediated talks on resolving the dispute between the two sides could resume.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer said at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that full normalization of relations between Serbia and its former province was “essential” for the future of Western Balkans.
Palmer said the tariffs present an “obstacle” for the dialogue and should be “lifted or suspended in such a way that would allow for the parties to return to the negotiating table.” Kosovo officials have repeatedly rejected calls by U.S. and EU officials for the lifting of taxes.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Palmer, Vucic said he had dismissed the allegations in sections of the Western public that Serbia had used Pristina’s taxes to “shut down” the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
“I told him (Palmer) the essence was this: How can you talk to someone who is preventing the flow of goods and services in the 21st century?” Vucic said.
“If you are unable to ship simple goods from one territory to another, what else can you talk about? And we need to talk about much more complicated and more important issues,” Vucic said.
The Serbian president said he told Palmer that only a solution that takes into account the interests of both Kosovo Albanians and Serbs could end the long-standing dispute.
Palmer later told the FoNet news agency that the US told Pristina the taxes should be suspended or lifted, but that Belgrade’s idea that Washington could force Kosovo to do that was unfair to Kosovo. He added Belgrade would have to discuss taxes with Pristina, not with Washington. “Kosovo has its policies and decides on its own,” he said, adding the US had “some influence” which it was trying to use constructively.
Asked about his expectations of the coming summit in Paris, Palmer said that the US support what their European partners are doing. “I can’t say what the outcome of the talks in Paris will be, but we are fighting together to reach an agreement which would contribute to the normalization of relations. I hope that the meeting will be constructive and that both sides will head towards an agreement,” he said.
Vucic: Good relations with the United States should be our future
According to Vucic, Serbia must learn to respect its past, but most of all, think of the future of its children.
“It is our job not to forget things that have happened, but what is going to happen is always more important than what has been. We need to focus on the future, and our future should be in good relations with the United States. To that end, I will do my best to build such relations,” Vucic added.
This post is also available in: Italiano