Trump dangles Rose Garden treaty moment in quiet peace effort between Serbia and Kosovo (Washington Post)
Under pressure from the Trump administration and with President Trump dangling a White House peace ceremony, Kosovo’s president has pledged to take a major step toward resolving an escalating standoff with Balkan rival Serbia. Trump has made an unusual direct appeal to Serb and Kosovar leaders as 10 years of hostilities threaten to boil over into armed conflict and as his administration pursues a previously undisclosed back channel to ease tension with Russian-backed Serbia. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci made a previously unreported diplomatic trip to Berlin last month, where he met with U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, a Trump confidant. Thaci pledged then that he would reverse course on punitive tariffs imposed on all Serb goods. In an exchange with The Washington Post on Friday, conducted in English over email, Thaci said he is “ready to consider lifting the tariffs if a clear way to proceed towards reaching a Final Peace Agreement with Serbia is opened for Kosovo.” The tariffs imposed last month — a move that has infuriated Serbia and Russia and alarmed the European Union — were accompanied by threats from Kosovo to raise a standing army over apparent violation of its agreement with NATO, which maintains a small defense force in Kosovo a decade after its separation from Serbia and formation as a sovereign country. Serbia has never recognized Kosovo’s independence and has warned of an armed intervention over the latest disagreements. Russia considers the vital role that the United States played in creating the country to be illegitimate meddling at its doorstep. “Yes, tariffs are an exceptional measure,” Thaci said. “The willingness from our side to do away with it is there. It becomes a stronger resolve if we feel support and guidance from our partners in this. For my part, I will reassure the Kosovo people that guidance and support is totally there.” Thaci’s view, which has not been previously reported, comes at some political peril as nationalist tensions spike. He cannot reverse the tariffs on his own and he faces internal opposition from Kosovo’s prime minister, his sometimes political rival. But the United States considers his overture a first step toward stopping a tit-for-tat escalation over the past two months and a potential return to what had appeared to be the most fruitful efforts in a decade toward a final peace accord. “Kosovo’s friends and I share a clear and vivid understanding of the enormous challenge we have in front of us in terms of doing what we are called to do by our conscience, and by our historical duty — to make peace possible and viable,” Thaci said.
Shala: Thaci cannot make the promise to rescind the tax (media)
Kosovo’s Trade and Industry Minister, Endrit Shala, said that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci cannot promise to rescind the 100-percent tax on goods coming from Serbia, because he as Minister suggested the introduction of the tax and not the President. Shala told Pristina-based Kallxo news website that the tax would not be rescinded if the reasons that forced the Kosovo government to introduce the tax are not changed. “As long as reasons that forced the Government of the Republic of Kosovo remain, the tax will not be removed,” Shala said.
Ramadani: Tax will be removed only if Serbia recognizes Kosovo (media)
Kosovo Security Force Deputy Minister, Burim Ramadani, has reacted to a statement by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci that the 100-percent tax on Serbian goods could be rescinded. “The 100-percent tax was not introduced so that it would be rescinded without changing the circumstances. Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo, with its independence declared on 17 February 2018, opens the way to discussions and not the other way around. There can be no calculations with national security,” Ramadani said.
President and Government must coordinate on tax, commentators say (Telegrafi)
Political analysts and commentators in Pristina argue that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, the Government and Assembly must coordinate their future actions on the 100-percent tax on goods from Serbia and dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, the news website reports. A university professor and political analyst told Telegrafi that the President is authorized to discuss topics related to dialogue as he leads the process but that he should also cooperate with the government on the future steps for the tax and for a final settlement with Serbia.
Rama: We are the Kosovo Army, only our name is KSF (media)
The Kosovo Army will have 5,000 active troops and 3,000 reserves. Kosovo Security Force representatives say they have asked for a 5.5 million budget from the government and that there will be a budget increase every year. KSF Commander, Rrahman Rama, told the media that they were careful with their budget requests because of the current economic situation in the country. Rama said that despite the name, the Kosovo Security Force will be the Kosovo Army. He said that starting from this year, the KSF will recruit new generations into the force. Rama also said that the doors of the KSF are open to all citizens of the Republic of Kosovo that want to serve the new organization.