West urges end of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue stalemate

The lack of progress will otherwise hinder their dreams of joining the European Union

Photo: AFP

Western powers this week urged foes Serbia and Kosovo to stop creating obstacles and reboot their stalled dialogue “with urgency”. In a statement, the five so-called ‘Quint’ countries - US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy - warned that otherwise "Kosovo’s and Serbia’s path towards the European Union (EU)" would be prevented.

“After years of stagnation, the time has come to finally end the conflicts of the 1990s and provide a secure and prosperous future for the people of Kosovo and Serbia by negotiating in good faith an agreement that both sides can support,” the statement said, continuing that the Western countries want “to see the full normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia via a comprehensive, politically sustainable, and legally binding agreement that contributes to regional stability”.

The governments of the five EU Member States also said they were willing to become more involved in the talks - but only if “you both signal a willingness to compromise, remove obstacles and resume discussions”.

The Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has been stalled since last November, when the Pristina government imposed 100% tariffs on imports from Serbia as a retaliatory measure against Belgrade’s diplomatic moves to block Kosovo from joining Interpol. Thus, the statement reads that for ‘Quint’ countries to step up their role in supporting the EU High Representative who facilitates the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Kosovo needs to suspends the tariffs imposed on Serbia. Serbia, on the other hand, is required to to halt its “de-recognition campaign against Kosovo”, which refers to Belgrade’s efforts to sway other countries to revoke their recognition of Kosovo’s statehood.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo after a NATO bombing intervention forced its troops to withdraw from a war with ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999. A decade later Kosovo declared independence, a move recognised by the US and most of Western Europe. But Belgrade and its allies Moscow and Beijing have never accepted its statehood, effectively shutting Kosovo out of the United Nations.

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