US expects Kosovo-Serbia agreement within weeks
The US special envoy for the Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, said that Kosovo should postpone the deadline until the end of October to introduce local license plates, and an agreement with Serbia could happen in just weeks, reports "Exit News".
From the beginning of November, all cars in the country must use Kosovo-issued license plates. But the Serbian majority in the north, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, still has numbers issued by Belgrade, and some, but not all, do not want to change them. The issue has been the subject of much debate and tension and has already been postponed pending a compromise between the two sides.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Albin Kurti Escobar said that Kosovo should delay the plan for ten months in order not to increase tensions.
“Kosovo has the right to implement this, but we want to implement it in a peaceful way so that it doesn’t raise tensions and distract us from some things that we need to do,” he said.
Escobar added: “It’s no secret that we asked for a longer period of implementation and another ten months. I would like that to happen. This is not only a request of the US but also of the whole five. We have not received an answer from Kosovo; we are still waiting,” Escobar said.
Quinte countries include France, which recently requested new criteria for Kosovo’s visa liberalization in the EU, even though the existing criteria were already met four years ago.
Escobar also said he supports Kosovo’s independence, but that could happen at a later stage. Meanwhile, he expressed support for Kosovo’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, including recognition by Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, and Slovakia.
“It is important to align ourselves with European values at this time of crisis in Europe. I wanted to emphasize that the United States fully supports Kosovo in all its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” he added.
Kosovo applied for membership in the Council of Europe, called for accelerated NATO membership, and said it would apply for EU membership before the end of 2022.
Escobar also said a deal with Serbia could be on the table in weeks.
“I have heard my European colleagues say that this is a matter of weeks, not years. For an agreement, for a way forward. Given the context of what is happening, everyone must take responsibility for creating stability not only in Europe but also in the region,” he said.
Kurti also expressed after the meeting his willingness to continue the dialogue, reach agreements and push concrete proposals. “Kosovo has shown itself to be a constructive side in the dialogue. We are ready and dedicated to reaching legally binding agreements for the normalization of relations, at the center of which is bilateral recognition,” he said.
Escobar also met with President Vyosa Osmani, who said the purpose of the meeting was to strengthen relations between the two countries.
“Kosovo remains extremely committed to doing everything possible to support our allies in defense of peace and democracy,” said Osmani, who added that this was reflected in foreign policy, sanctions against Russia, and support for Ukraine.
She also expressed concern about Serbia, which has failed to align with EU and US foreign policy towards Russia, despite repeated calls.
Serbia refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence after a bloody 1998-1999 war that ended with the NATO bombing of Serbian forces. It also continues to threaten its neighbor, saying it will stand in the way of any attempts to join international institutions.
Serbian media reported increased pressure from the West on Belgrade and that a deal could be on the table by the end of the year.
“With the flare-up of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Western centers are in a hurry to close this matter as soon as possible, and according to information from diplomatic sources, their expectations are that this will happen in a very short period of only one hour. A few weeks” writes Novosti.
The agreement may stipulate that “Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo, but also does not oppose Kosovo’s entry into the United Nations.”