U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Ambassador Richard Grenell met with Serbia’s President Alexandar Vučić today in Belgrade, after yesterday’s visit in Prishtina, Kosovo.
Grenell delivered the massage he anticipated yesterday in Pristina that Serbia must end its derecognition campaign against Kosovo, and the latter must drop the 100 percent tariff against Serbian goods imposed in November 2018.
He also warned that if both parties fail to reach an agreement on this, the US will withdraw from mediation. “We must do everything we can to overcome what everyone sees as an open conflict. If both sides fail to reach an agreement, we will withdraw,” Grenell said, according to Serbian media B92.
President Vučić made Grenell’s terms sound like a heavy burden on Serbia but he did not refuse them. He told Grenell that he does not accept “equalizing the withdrawal campaign with the illegal introduction of taxes on Serbian goods.” Vučić added that while the US and Kosovo want more international recognition for the latter, “we don’t want it and our job is to work on it”.
However, he went on to announce that they had discussed with the US diplomat the possibility of establishing a railway line between Belgrade and Prishtina that could boost trade, after having stated that Serbia’s alleged loss from tariffs imposed by the Haradinaj government amount to €435 million euros ($480 million).
“We talked about establishment of a railway line between Belgrade and Prishtina […] It’s senseless to have a railway line and at the same time no goods traveling on those trains,” Vučić said. Grenell confirmed he will organize a meeting on Monday in Berlin for parties to negotiate an agreement on the issue.
Last week, Grenell brokered an agreement that could lead to the establishment of flights between Prishtina and Belgrade after a 21-year hiatus.
Since appointed by Trump in October 2019, Grenell has repeatedly underlined, although in general terms, the economic benefits for both countries if the dialogue resumes and agreements are signed between them.
The EU-mediated dialogue started in 2011 between Kosovo and Serbia has stalled since 2018, after Serbia’s campaign for blocking Kosovo’s access in international organizations and its derecognition campaign was followed by the imposition of 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods entering Kosovo.
With the US taking the lead in mediating between the two countries, the EU seems to have been left behind.