Solomon Islands withdrew the recognition of Kosovo (RTS, Tanjug)
Solomon Islands have withdrawn their recognition of Kosovo’s independence and informed the Kosovo Foreign Ministry in a written note, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic confirmed the information.
Namely, Solomon Islands office in Australia sent the Kosovo embassy in that country on November 28 to a note informing it was sending its foreign ministry’s decision to withdraw the recognition of Kosovo. The second note dates back to February and says that diplomatic relations between Kosovo and Solomon Islands were established in 2015, but that now that decision had been withdrawn, stating the reasons behind the move:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Solomon Islands informs the Kosovo Foreign Affairs Ministry that, after careful consideration, and taking into account the continuation of the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina on the final status of Kosovo and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Solomon Islands Government has decided to withdraw recognition of Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state.”
Kosovo’s Hoxhaj claims calling for pact against Serbia in region (RTS, Beta)
Serbia has continued conducting “aggressive campaign” against Kosovo and wants to destabilize the whole region, Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj told Croatian media, stressing that he has informed Croatian senior officials about this. Speaking for Zagreb daily newspaper Vecernji List, Hoxhaj said he talked to the leaderships of Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro during his visits to those countries and that they discussed forming a pact, which would “confront Serbia and its aggressive policy.”
According to him, everyone in the region should be “more cautious and work together,” as a possible territory swap in the region would make Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic merge Republika Srpska (RS), with Serbia.
Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic said in connection with Hoxhaj’s statements that they represent a hostile act against Serbia and its citizens. He also said that it is a call for additional instability and that he doesn’t understand why Serbia should be targeted by some regional alliance, considering the fact that it has strived to develop neighborly relations with everyone.
“We are trying to strengthen our country and we are not putting anyone in jeopardy, we are not allowing anyone to step on us and we are fighting for our interests” said. Stefanovic also said it was necessary to see how would Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro respond to Hoxhaj’s idea of forming a pact against Serbia.
“We would like to hear what Serbia and the Serbian people did to make them form a pact against Serbia and the Serbian people” Stefanovic told the public broadcaster, RTS.
Head of Serbia’s Government Office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, stressed that Hoxhaj’s words should be taken seriously because the pact he talks about means “a pact against peace” and regional stability.
“Knowing how serious Albanians in Kosovo are in their attempts to undermine regional peace” Djuric stressed, one can say that Serbia “is a victim of Pristina’s attempt to push the whole region into the flames of a conflict.”
“We hope that the sponsors of the self-proclaimed Kosovo independence will finally understand what kind of monsters they have created and will take decisive steps to bring the extremists from Pristina from the path to war, back to the negotiating table” the Office of KiM said in a statement.
In connection with Hoxhaj’s statements on the pact against Serbia, Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic told RTS that this statement was embarrassing, but that everyone should know that Serbia is leading a policy that is above all peaceful and responsible.
The Deputy Prime Minister urged the EU to return Pristina to the negotiating table.
“This is the place where the negotiations are taking place, not just condemnations, but the EU must respond in this situation. Apart from the fact that this is a trade war, it is obvious that there are calls for other types of conflict, the region doesn’t need this, EU doesn’t need this” stressed Zorana Mihajlovic.
Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin expects the governments that Enver Hoxhaj labeled as “allies in the fight against Serbia” to respond and say whether Hoxhaj’s position is theirs position too and explain to their citizens, as he said, for whom they will push them into conflicts and blood.
“Hoxhaj’s statement is the continuation of the statement by (Croatian President Kolinda) Grabar Kitarovic that Croats and Albanians are brothers in arms, the North Macedonian fulfillment of every Albanian ultimatum and the policy of Montenegro that the Serbs are occupiers and that Kosovo is a state” said Aleksandar Vulin.
Hoxha’s statement provoked stormy reactions in the region, and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the Montenegrin Foreign Ministry denied any talks on the subject.
Hoxhaj later denounced the text and claims that he never mentioned a pact against Serbia.
“The title of the text and what I actually said are two completely different things” said Hoxhaj.
“However, my comments about Serbia’s aggressive politics against its neighbors and suggestion to the Western partners that they should use their influence on Belgrade, which is a Russian extended hand, are my well-known stands which I have reiterated in the last decade” Hoxhaj added.
Vucic claims announcements of Kosovo’s new steps lead to “certain and complete disaster” (VIP)
Everything that has happened in recent days in Kosovo, is leading slowly but surely towards complete disaster, stated Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday, meaning the introduction of taxes on goods from Serbia, the announced unification of the southern and northern part of Mitrovica, as well as the announcement of the creation of the Kosovo army.
“There are some things that we simply cannot allow in connection with this,” Vucic threatened, without specifying how he means to prevent any of the moves by Kosovo.
He said that this towards certain disaster and asked Europe and the world to understand what kind of problems will be created if no one addresses the issue.
“I am saying this glum and concerned, but not scared… The most important thing is for us to preserve peace, but also to preserve our people in Kosovo; there are some things that we simply
cannot allow” Vucic said.
When asked what he expects from the meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is supposed to visit Belgrade and Pristina on Monday, Vucic briefly said that he expects to meet with him.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I can say thank you to Johannes; I perceive him as a genuine friend of Serbia and all of us in the Western Balkans. These are very difficult days for us” he said.
President of Cyprus will write to European leaders over Pristina’s move (Beta)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Nicosia on Nov. 30 that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had promised him that he would write to all European leaders to warn them of the possible catastrophic consequences of Pristina’s actions.
Vucic told a joint news conference that he had asked his Cypriot counterpart for “advice on the difficult situation Serbia has found itself in through no fault of its own, but because of the incomprehensible decision of the Pristina authorities to levy a 100- percent tax on goods from Serbia.”
“All of Europe has condemned this, but there have been almost no changes in Pristina’s behavior.
Now they want new provocations, they are announcing the formation of an army of Kosovo,
contrary to all of the agreements we have signed and achieved,” Vucic said. He added that he had asked President Anastasiades to acquaint all European partners with the possible catastrophic fallout of such actions on the part of Pristina, and that he was grateful for his promise to send a letter to all European leaders, because he knows “that his voice is listened to in all European
Vucic reiterated that Cyprus honored the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, and supported its bid to join the EU.
Hahn visits Belgrade, Pristina to discuss Kosovo customs tariffs (Beta)
The European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn paid a short visit to Belgrade on Monday to meet Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic, prior to trip Pristina for talks to the authorities there about last month’s decision to increase import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia to 100 percent, the FoNet news agency reported.
Serbian President warned European Commissioner Johannes Hahn of the possible consequences regarding Pristina’s irresponsible move to increase the tax on Serbian goods, which could lead to a complete destabilization of the region. He reiterated his readiness to continue the dialogue in Brussels after Pristina withdrew its moves. Commissioner Han wrote on Twitter that he would call upon interlocutors in Pristina to unblock regional co-operation and trade.
He thanked Commissioner Hahn for understanding the situation and on his desire to solve the problem, as well as to assist Serbia on the European path, stressing that the preservation of peace and stability, as well as further European integration are key for future progress of the region.
“Serbia will not respond with any kind of countermeasures, because it wants to remain a reliable partner in the region, Europe and the world” President Vucic reiterated.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn said that long-term stability requires reconciliation and good neighborly relations and voiced full support to a peaceful resolution to the crisis with the respect of the international laws and regional agreements, the statement said.
After the meeting, Han Twitted, and said that they would urge the Pristina officials to unblock the regional co-operation and trade, and pointed out that it is necessary to return to the dialogue as soon as possible.
“A good meeting with the Serbian President in Belgrade, where we discussed the introduction of a Kosovo taxi from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a violation of CEFTA and REA (regional economic zone) and reginal cooperation. We agreed that urgent desolation is necessary” Han wrote.
Obradovic: Demarcation with Kosovo agreed (RTS)
Secret talks are presently under way between the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic on the demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo, stated Bosko Obradovic, leader of the opposition Dveri Movement, adding that the result will be the recognition of the independence of Kosovo, adding that the main reason for the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Serbia are talks with Vucic on the demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo.
“The American idea for the demarcation of Serbia and Kosovo has at this moment reached the final phase, and France has accepted to see this idea through to the end, on behalf of the EU. A man close to the French president, an European parliamentarian and former NATO lobbyist among Frnech Diplomats, Arnaud Danjean is conducting the talks with Thaci and Vucic” Obradovic said. He pointed out that French President Macron will talk with Vucic in Belgrade about the final phase of the demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo, where only the Gazivode is disputed, Obradovic pointed out, while everything else has already been agreed.
NATO chief comments on “border correction” idea (Beta)
“NATO strongly supports the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, as for potential border adjustments it hopes the sides will find a mutually acceptable solution” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this in Brussels on Monday. Stoltenberg spoke ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday, when “Western Balkan countries’ relations with NATO” will also be considered together with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Asked by a reporter whether NATO “fears that it will face security consequences after the possible implementation of an agreement, which hypothetically might include border corrections” – Stoltenberg replied that NATO “strongly supports the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, because that’s the only way to solve the outstanding issues.”
The NATO chief recalled that he recently visited Belgrade, and that one of his main messages was the importance of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
“When it comes to potential border adjustments, I will only say that we support the dialogue, and we hope that they will be able to find a solution that is acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina,” Stoltenberg said.
According to him, “it is important that all actors refrain from provocative actions and provocative rhetoric to try to reduce tensions and make progress.”
Stoltenberg stressed that “NATO will continue to be present in Kosovo, we have our KFOR operation there which is important for stability.”
“KFOR will continue to be impartial, helping to make sure that we have the necessary stability and security to see progress on the effort to find a politically negotiated solution,” Stoltenberg said.
Vucic and Dacic find it hard to believe that Oric is not convicted (RTS)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic commented on Friday the acquitting verdict rendered to wartime Commander of “the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H)” in Srebrenica Naser Oric and his comrade Sabahudin Muhic and said: “There will be no justice for us Serbs. Our tear has no parent. We have nothing against you celebrating Allah, or celebrating anyone you wish, but we have something against you celebrating injustice and those who committed crimes.” Vucic said that the fact that someone is not convicted due to political reasons, does not mean that he did not commit the crimes. He added that this brings a lesson to Serbs to fight even stronger for economic progress, progress of the Serb people and never forget Serb victims, when others do not want to see them.
Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic commented on Friday the acquitting verdict rendered to Oric and expressed concern over these events since they are happening around the same time the Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic was joking around about the removal of the Republika Srpska flag in the B&H Presidency and around the time pressure is being made on Serbia to acknowledge genocide in Srebrenica. Dacic said that the crime in Srebrenica should be punished but asks if that means that it is legit to kill Serbs and that those crimes should not be punished. Dacic demanded that Komsic give a statement regarding the acquittal of Oric, noting that if he fails to do so, that would mean that he does not want good relations between Serbia and B&H.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
B&H Presidency Chairman Dodik condemns Hoxhaj’s statement on creation of pact against Serbia (RTRS)
Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik stated that the statement of Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Kosovo Enver Hoxhaj on creation of a certain pact against Serbia only confirms a years-long anti-Serb policy in the region. Dodik assessed that such anti-Serb front has existed for a long time and emphasized that there are continuous pressures on Serbia, yet almost no argumentation that Serbia presented in the relations with Pristina is taken seriously.
“Pristina was asked almost trivial things that have become the basis for action of international factor, which has shown to lack objectivity towards Serbia and Serbs in general.”
The B&H Presidency Chairman assessed that the same international factor is only trying to keep Serbs separated and unite all others into some states. The B&H Presidency Chairman went on to state: “We are always under some pressure. When they see they cannot do anything, then they say no one is even asking for anything, but as soon as a minor opportunity appears they would immediately want to devastate Republika Srpska (RS) and create a unitary B&H.” He noted that the anti-Serb conception strives towards preventing Serbia and Serbs from becoming an important, constructive factor of peace in the Balkans. In addition, Dodik considers that “the policy of the West does not differ from the time of collapse of the Ottoman Empire, not even today when there is such sophisticated manner to try to send a general anti-Serb message to Serbia and Serbs, wherever they are”. He concluded that Serbia should count on change of the context of international relations and to preserve its identity.
B&H FM Crnadak: Pristina should commit to fulfilling its obligations from Brussels agreement and not care about RS and B&H (N1)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak reacted to the statement that Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj made for Zagreb-based Vecernji list in which he said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has not given up on the idea of annexation of Republika Srpska (RS) to Serbia. In his reaction, Crnadak said that Hoxhaj should not care about the RS and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), but rather that Pristina should commit to fulfilling its obligations from the Brussels agreement and reaching a joint solution with Belgrade. Crnadak was quoted as saying: “They should not connect us with Kosovo, because we have the Dayton agreement, our institutions, and have not done a single thing against anyone in the region. While everyone in the region is preoccupied with cooperation and building mutual trust, Pristina is introducing mad customs duties of 100% and is making hostile pacts.”
Oric: I expect from Aleksandar Vucic to publicly apologize for falsely accusing me of horrendous war crimes (Face TV)
Wartime commander of “the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H)” in Srebrenica Naser Oric commenting on the decision of the Appellate Division to acquit him of war crime charges, said that he stopped counting how many times he had to stand a trial and the latest acquittal is “simply another conquered trench”. Oric stressed that he expects from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to publicly apologize for falsely accusing him of horrendous war crimes, including accusations that he gauged eyes to one of Serb victims. He claims that three attorneys from Serbia already asked for his permission to file a lawsuit against Vucic for slander and he will decide about this offer in the coming days. He pointed out that this was the first time in history that the head of a state which was an accomplice to genocide and aggression, in this case Serbia, was directly meddling with cases prosecuted before judicial institutions of a state that was the victim of aggression, in this case B&H.
Chairman of the Presidency of B&H and leader of SNSD Milorad Dodik said that this verdict is worst message the Court and state of B&H conveyed to Serbs, adding that it is high time to stop with belittling of Serbs. He pointed out that the trial in this case was nothing but farce aimed to provide satisfaction for criminals.
Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic and Speaker of the RS National Assembly (NA) Nedeljko Cubrilovic commented on the acquitting verdict that the Court of B&H rendered, and stated that the acquittal is another conformation that judiciary at the level of B&H is in function of Bosniak wartime policy. She added that “bearing in mind practice of the Court of B&H, this kind of verdict was expected and only confirmed doubts in biased approach of the so-called judiciary”. In her opinion, the verdict amnestied all monstrous crimes committed against Serb people in Podrinje area, adding that it is no surprise that Serbs have less and less faith in the joint future in B&H.
Cubrilovic stated that the acquittal represents total downfall of the judiciary system of B&H. He strongly condemned the verdict that in his opinion, confirmed the truth that B&H judiciary tried only under the influence of politics. He emphasized that this is insult for over 3,000 Serb victims from the Birac region.
RS Minister of Justice Anton Kasipovic assessed that the acquitting verdict in this case is causing a serious problem in the work of judiciary of B&H. He explained that it actually suggests that B&H is not ready for prosecution of war crimes.
Leader of SDS Vukota Govedarica underlined, among other things that acquitting verdict in case against Oric is final evidence there is no justice for Serbs in B&H. He stressed that Oric had to be tried for things he had done and not for being member of one ethnic group.
Delegations of SDA and HDZ B&H meet to discuss formation of new authorities in B&H (TV1)
Delegations of SDA and HDZ Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) met on Friday in Mostar to discuss formation of authorities in B&H. Prior to official meeting of delegations, leaders of SDA Bakir Izetbegovic and HDZ B&H Dragan Covic held separate meeting. Reporter noted that although no concrete agreement was reached at abovementioned meeting, two delegations concluded that there is will for cooperation on both sides. Following the meeting, Covic said that new authorities in B&H will be formed once necessary agreement is reached and signed. Covic emphasized that it is necessary to achieve “honorable relation” between two politics and two peoples: Bosniaks and Croats. “Whoever is undermining these relations is inflicting damage,” explained Covic.
Reporter reminded that after his meetings with leader of SNSD and Chairman of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik held earlier leader of HDZ B&H said that two parties will cooperate in upcoming period and work to form coalition at B&H level, adding that they are waiting to see who their partner from rank of Bosniaks will be.
Following the meeting in Mostar, Izetbegovic said that SDA will present on Monday its program that will consist of three key elements: peace, security and stability in B&H and the Balkans; reforms – primarily those related to the EU path of B&H and massive construction activities in entire B&H. Also, leader of SDA stressed that SDA and HDZ B&H have been preserving stability in B&H, adding that considering results of recently held General Elections 2018, two parties are obliged to work together. Izetbegovic also stated that he is planning to meet on Monday with delegation of ‘BH Bloc’ (Political bloc consisting of SDP, DF and Our Party). “We would like to have this component at all levels of authorities, so that this segment of society is not left out. Reforms will not be easy, and I would like to have them beside me” emphasized leader of SDA.
SNSD’s Dodik, Cvijanovic, Viskovic meet and discuss formation of new RS Government (ATV)
Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska (RS) President Zeljka Cvijanovic and RS Prime Minister-designate Radovan Viskovic held a meeting at the RS Presidential Palace in Banja Luka on Sunday. Addressing reporters on this occasion, Dodik explained that the meeting was dedicated to formation of a new convocation of the RS Government, adoption of the budget and program of economic reforms that are supposed to be adopted by the end of the year, nomination of candidates for the RS Council of Peoples and the B&H House of Peoples and future foreign policy of the RS. Dodik announced that proposal of the new convocation of the RS Government is expected to be presented to MPs in the RS National Assembly (RSNA) between December 10 and 15. “All consultations with political partners, social partners and associations have been completed. We are starting a new round of talks on how to compose the Government itself, which will begin next week already” Dodik announced on Sunday. He also noted that delegates in the RS Council of Peoples and the B&H House of Peoples will be elected at the session of the RSNA this week. “We also discussed some foreign-political issues that are important for the RS, which have to be reflected through institutions of B&H. We also discussed the migrant crisis” Dodik told reporters.
Officials of Montenegro did not discuss the “pact” against Serbia (MINA)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the MINA Agency that officials of Montenegro did not speak to anyone about the establishment of “pacts” against any state in the region, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Vice Premier of Kosovo Enver Hoxhaj said that while he was in Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia, he talked with the leaders of these countries about the establishment of a pact that would be opposed to Serbia.
“Montenegro is committed to developing the best possible relations with all the countries of the region, based on the principles of mutual trust and respect” reeds the statement by the ministry.
As they pointed out from the Ministry, Montenegro stands for a stable, secure and prosperous region based on European values.
“Strengthening regional cooperation and good neighborly relations is one of the priorities of Montenegro’s foreign policy” the ministry said.
Appellate Court rejected appeals of Medojevic and Knezevic (CDM)
The Appellate Court of Montenegro rejected the appeals submitted by the lawyers of the Democratic Front (DF) leaders, Nebojsa Medojevic and Milan Knezevic, and approved the decision of the High Court in Podgorica on their 2-month detention for refusing to testify in certain court cases.
High Court in Podgorica earlier reported that the DF official, Nebojsa Medojevic had been arrested by their order, and added that the same scenario was going to happen to his colleague Milan Knezevic, who was in the parliament building on that day.
After that, i.e. on 30 December, Medojevic’s and Knezevic’s lawyers submitted the appeal against the decision of the High Court in Podgorica, ordering a 2-month detention for both of them, as they refused to testify in certain court cases.
Montenegro soon opens Chapter 27 (CDM)
Montenegro will open Chapter 27- Environment and Climate Changes on 10 December, in Brussels. Costs for this chapter will amount 1,6 billion EUR.
Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, Pavle Radulovic, said that they were the ones who were right and not the NGO sector. He pointed out that this is a great success.
After Chapter 27, there is only one left to be open. Next year will be marked with the closure of this chapter.
“This is a big success for Montenegro and I would like to publicly express my gratitude to the collaborators. I would also like to thank our diplomatic network in the EU as well as diplomats of the EU Member States and negotiation structures of the Government. This is a huge step in the negotiation process” said Minister Radulovic.
Parliament adopts draft amendment to change the name with 67 votes ‘in favor’ (Nezavisen vesnik)
Parliament adopts draft amendment to change the name with 67 votes ‘in favor’ The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia on the continuation of the 64th session, with 67 votes in favor, four abstentions and 23 against, adopted the draft amendment XXXIII of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. The first amendment envisages in the Constitution the words “Republic of Macedonia” to be replaced by the words “Republic of North Macedonia”, and the word “Macedonia” is replaced by the words “North Macedonia”, except in Article 36, which has a historical axis and refers to “Special social rights of fighters from the Anti-Fascist War and from all national liberation wars of Macedonia”.
According to the MPs from the ruling majority, amendment 33 refers to the name of the state and with it finally defines the name of our country in a wider historical context and the geographical determinant North which is added is practically real but also a historical solution to the definition of a modern state, which wants to build its existence on universal principles in a globalized world.
Stoltenberg: Gruevski is not an issue for NATO (Nezavisen vesnik)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the protection given by NATO’s member state Hungary to the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is not an issue for NATO, but something that should be resolved between Skopje and Budapest.
“That’s not for me to comment. It is an issue that has to be addressed between Skopje and Budapest, not for NATO,” Stoltenberg told a press conference before the NATO ministerial meeting.
He announced the meeting for the Western Balkans, which will be attended by High Representative for EU foreign policy, Federica Mogherini.
Stoltenberg was encouraged by the vote in parliament on constitutional changes, but whether the second two-thirds vote would succeed he did not want to speculate, saying that it would be our decision. But he reiterated that as soon as the name agreement passes, the admission protocol will immediately be signed and Macedonian representatives will participate in NATO meetings.
“This is a historic and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join NATO and we are ready to welcome you as our 30th member” said Stoltenberg.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Kosovo’s Rival Leaders Compete for US Support (BIRN)
In the middle of his seemingly successful trip to the US, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci woke up last Wednesday to find an “Op Ed” column in the prestigious Washington Post that his own Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, had written, openly undermining Thaci’s tour.
While Thaci was trying to win support in Washington for his – and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s – idea of border changes as part of a final settlement, Haradinaj’s article denounced the idea, calling it a “short-sighted attempt to give in to a bully [Serbia] in the hope that the bullying will stop.”
At a subsequent event held in Washington by the Atlantic Council on Friday, Thaci sidestepped a question from BIRN about whether he had read Haradinaj’s column. Declining to clarify whether he and Haradinaj were competing for America’s support, Thaci said only that “Kosovo will be united, as much as it can be.
“I don’t know of any case in the world where two countries, two leaders, after a century-old conflict, have reached a peace agreement with 100 per cent support of their own constituencies,” he added – not naming Haradinaj – referring to the plan that and Vucic floated in the summer, proposing ethnic swaps as a pathway towards mutual recognition.
Thaci said that he had not forgotten the Kosovo Albanian victims of Kosovo’s war of independence with Serbia, but the country had to move on now.
“We are not the only countries in the world that have been at war in the past and have reached a peace agreement. We cannot continue attacking each other about our past. We have to actually work together for our future,” Thaci said.
Competing visions play out in Washington:
Thaci’s move, and Haradinaj’s parry, form part of an ongoing struggle between the two main political figures in Kosovo to win US support for their opposing views of Kosovo’s future.
Daniel Vajdich, of the Atlantic Council, told BIRN that the publication of Haradinaj’s column “was undoubtedly timed to undermine Thaci and his visit to the United States.
“Haradinaj and Thaci are on opposite sides on reaching some sort of agreement with Serbia,” Vajdich told BIRN, recalling Haradinaj’s earlier opposition to a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro. “These are his politics.
“Thaci, meanwhile, sees benefits in finding a solution that advances Pristina interests but is also acceptable to Belgrade, Brussels, Washington, and even Moscow,” Vajdich added.
On his US trip, Thaci has touched base with almost every person significant for the Balkans, apart from President Donald Trump.
After his visit to Washington, he went to Dallas, Texas and back, shaking hands with various key members of Congress.
He awarded former US president George W Bush Kosovo’s Order of Independence, and visited the influential think tanks.
Thaci seeks bipartisan support in the US for an agreement with Serbia that would include redefining the Kosovo-Serbia border.
After meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the latter sounded supportive, saying that he “encouraged Kosovo to seize this unique window of opportunity to reach a historic comprehensive normalization deal with Serbia”.
Trump’s National Security Affairs adviser, John Bolton, tweeted in a similar fashion. “The time is now for Kosovo and Serbia to reach an agreement,” he tweeted.
Vajdich told BIRN that Bolton’s tweet, in particular, showed that Thaci was making headway.
“The purpose of Thaci’s visit was to gain support for reaching a deal with Belgrade, which Haradinaj is against. Based on National Security Advisor John Bolton’s tweet, that now is the time to find a compromise, Thaci’s visit appears to have been a success,” he said.
But Haradinjaj is not backing down from his staunch opposition to swapping land as the price of a settlement.
Referring to a Reuters article on the proposed land swap, Haradinaj dismissed the idea that Vucic, backed by Russia, would recognize Kosovo if Kosovo gives up part of its territory, calling it “obscene”.
“This is too high a price to pay. We will not violate our constitution, give up our sovereignty and destroy our territorial integrity just to have Serbia recognize something that is already a fact,” Haradinaj wrote.
Moreover, Haradinaj claimed most people support his side of the argument.
Citing a poll taken by the Kosova Democratic Institute think tank, he wrote that 77.6 per cent of Kosovo citizens oppose territorial exchange.
“As the country’s prime minister, I would never support such a trade,” Haradinaj added.
Thaci, however, said he never expected his proposal to be popular.
“I’m very happy with the opinion of the citizens of Kosovo, on where they stand, but don’t expect me to receive 100 per cent support from everybody,” Thaci told BIRN in his reply to a question about popular support.
No agreement on what ‘border changes’ mean:
Haradinaj maintains that a successful agreement between Serbia and Kosovo must have the support of a majority in both countries.
Daniel Serwer, professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that is not even in sight.
“Vucic and Thaci are still far apart on what each of them would find acceptable. And neither is likely to get the agreement the other wants through his own parliament,” Serwer told BIRN referring to the fact that neither side has clarified what border changes they have in mind.
While Thaci has mentioned only the union with Kosovo of mainly Albanians areas of southern Serbia, Serbia is thinking mainly of the union with Serbia of mainly Serbian parts of northern Kosovo.
Serwer thinks that Thaci wants an agreement with Serbia, but sees a problem in his approach to the US main actors.
He “sees the US as a potential ally … but Vucic thinks the same thing. They can’t both be right,” Serwer told BIRN.
Serwer always thought border change a bad idea and insists the idea is now “mostly dead.
“But bad ideas never completely die. They are zombies. Someone is always trying to revive them, but they never succeed,” he said.
Despite the Kosovo and Serbian leaders’ conflicting views, Daniel Vajdich, on the other hand, believes that since most of the important actors in the US have accepted the principle of border changes, it is up to Prishtina and Belgrade to cut a deal.
“Retaining the status quo for next 30, 50, or 100 years hurts both sides,” he told BIRN.