Trump to host Serbia-Kosovo summit with business on focus

Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti (L) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R).

The US will seek to foster a breakthrough in talks between Balkan war foes Kosovo and Serbia meeting leaders of the two countries at the White House on Thursday and Friday, news wires reported.

"We're kind of stuck on political discussions and we keep pounding the same issues over and over without much progress," an advisor to President Donald Trump on the issue said, on grounds of anonymity. "We do believe that a concentration on the economic development side would produce progress," he added. But coming two months before the US presidential election and without a major agreement promised, the summit has the feel, some think, of a show to display Trump as a master of diplomacy.

While Brussels has been leading negotiations between the two sides for nearly a decade, the US has recently sought a role under Richard Grenell, a special envoy appointed by Trump. While Grenell has been accused of complicating the EU-led process to bring Belgrade and Pristina to an accord, he succeeded in arranging for the two sides to meet. A first meeting planned in June was aborted after Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was indicted for war crimes arising from the 1990s conflict by special prosecutors in The Hague.

Both sides agreed last month to reschedule, with economic issues at the center of talks. Hoti said they would discuss "major projects that will change the economic perspective of Kosovo and the region."

The Trump advisor said that the US role has been to bypass politicians and focus on the issues of business people, who want to expand commerce. Washington wants to see if more investment and job creation "could somehow change the dynamic of the situation." The advisor cited recent agreements on opening road, rail and air links, though the latter has yet to result in an initial flight between Belgrade and Pristina. 

Damir Marusic, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, believes Europeans should support whatever comes of the summit. "It would be a shame to let opportunities pass due to fits of pique," Marusic said, cited by AFP. "A smaller win may be possible, and could be significant."

Similar articles