Zaev Says Russia Influenced Vučić–Thaçi Negotiations Over Territorial Swap

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia told Russian phone–pranksters posing as Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko and NATO Secretary–General Jens Stoltenberg that Serbia’s President Alexandar Vučić and Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi have started negotiations to exchange territories.

Zaev expressed his deep concern that negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo were pushed by Russia, in order to use a possible agreement as a precedent to settle disputes in Abkhazia and Crimea.

The Russian pranksters had several phone calls with Zaev, in three of which he worriedly talks with the other two high officials about the danger of the territorial swap between Serbia and Kosovo. In a conversation with a fake Poroshenko, Zaev said:

I want to share one fear [on] what is happening here in our region. The President of Serbia and the President of Kosovo [have] start[ed] some negotiations of sharing territories and changing borders, and we are very against of that. Even Chancellor Merkel is against, and the whole region is against, because we feel that there is some hidden intention from Russia to use that [as a precedent in] international practice. [sic]

The North Macedonian prime minister hinted that, for the same reason, Turkey was also interested in a settlement through territorial swap between Serbia and Kosovo, in relation to its dispute with Greece over Cyprus.

Also, talking to a fake Stoltenberg, Zaev said:

As you know, they [are] try[ing] to change borders and change territories, and I think that there is some Russian influence in that […]

The phone conversation between Zaev and the pranksters, whom he thought were Poroshenko and Stoltenberg, allegedly took place in August 2018, January and April 2019.

Zaev asked both Poroshenko and Stoltenberg to be on alert and oppose such plan that could “make a huge damage to the Balkans.” He informed them that he has demanded the same from Chancellor Merkel, who is against the swap of territories according to Zaev, as well as from Mogherini, Pence and Pompeo.

“The Balkans is multi-ethnic and that will open the Pandora box,” Zaev says in one conversation.

He informed the fake Poroshenko of a seemingly concrete plan between Vučić and Thaçi to reach a solution, which involved “ten municipalities from the northern part of Kosovo to be given to Serbia, and few municipalities in southern part of Serbia to be given to Kosovo.” Zaev added that if ever implemented, such a plan would “produce only wars and the Balkans would be a new time bomb.”

Kosovo’s Prime Minister had also declared earlier that Presidents Vučić and Thaçi were likely to have negotiated the exchange of territories. Both presidents have denied such allegations.

The Berlin Summit called by Merkel and Macron seemed to give a blow to the alleged plan for territorial exchanges between Kosovo and Serbia. After the summit, Serbia’s Alexandar Vučić said that the idea for this plan had been his, and it had failed there. However, President Thaçi declared immediately after that he and Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama had not waived the territorial swap.