Kosovo rebuffs EU special mediator in talks with Serbia

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci (L) and European Council President Charles Michel before an EU-WB meeting, Brussels, 16 February.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci announced on Tuesday he would not take part in talks on normalising ties with Serbia led by the EU special mediator Miroslav Lajcak, calling instead for an increased US role in the dialogue, news wires reported.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, agreed to an EU-sponsored dialogue with Belgrade in 2013. The normalisation is among key conditions the EU has set for admitting Kosovo as a member state, and by Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, to lift its veto on Kosovo joining the UN.

In March, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell appointed Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak as special mediator for Kosovo. But Slovakia is one of five EU member countries, along with Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Spain, that still decline to recognize Kosovo's independence.

"In front of us we will have two negotiators from the countries that do not recognise Kosovo's independence," Thaci told reporters in Pristina, referring to Lajcak and Borrell, a former Spanish foreign minister.

Thaci said he would join any meetings organised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. “But there is no inclination on my part to participate in a negotiation process that is led by Lajcak," he declared.

Thaci said only the US, which brokered Bosnia's peace accord 25 years ago and led NATO's 1999 air strikes that halted Serbia's brutal counter-insurgency campaign in Kosovo, could really advance dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. President Donald Trump named Richard Grenell, a former US ambassador to Germany, as the US envoy on Kosovo. Grenell has brokered a deal to resume direct commercial flights and railway traffic between Kosovo and Serbia.

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