US reiterates: Tariff must be suspended; dialogue must get back on track
(All monitored broadcasters, KTV)
The US Embassy in Prishtinë/Pristina issued a statement on Wednesday’s meeting of the state leaders with officials of the US National Security Council.
National Security Council (NSC) Deputy Senior Director for Europe John Erath and NSC Director for European Affairs Brad Berkley met yesterday with President Thaci and Prime Minister Haradinaj, following their visit to Belgrade and meetings with Serbian government leaders. The visitors came to reinforce President Trump’s message “to seize this unique moment…and refrain from actions that would make an agreement more difficult to achieve.” They stressed in both capitals the White House’s concern the Dialogue must get back on track, and both parties must cease provocative actions and take constructive steps to return to the negotiating table,” the statement says.
“The visitors reiterated their message of a joint interagency letter February 11 that the tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian products are an impediment towards progress, undermine our partnership, and must be suspended to move the Dialogue with Serbia forward. They emphasized the urgency of Kosovo reaching a comprehensive normalization agreement with Serbia and U.S.-Kosovo alignment on this shared strategic interest,” the statement concludes.
Haradinaj: Tariff will not be revoked, Kosovo ready to face consequences
The high US officials concluded their visit, having conveyed clear messages to all those whom they met with.
KTV learned that at the meetings on Thursday, Erath and Berkley said that Kosovo should not bring the situation to that point, so that the US would consider the possibility of withdrawing its troops from Kosovo.
According to the same sources, the two high US officials are not in favour of territory exchange with Serbia, but they are in favour of demarcation, if the countries agree on that.
Officially, in a statement, the US Embassy said to have asked for Kosovo leaders to revoke the tariff, because it undermines partnership with the US.
However, the latest warning has not changed the stance of Prime Minister Haradinaj.
He said he was ready for Kosovo to pay some consequences now, rather than having an agreement that might enjoy international support, but which can be harmful for Kosovo.
According to Haradinaj, it is internal division that is destroying Kosovo’s position.
Haradinaj: I agree to revoke tariff, provided that we know the dialogue contract
On Thursday, the Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj met with business representatives from Mitrovicë/Mitrovica.
Following the meeting, he said he agrees to suspend the tariff, provided that the contract of talks and dialogue is known.
Haradinaj said it is difficult to revoke the tariff, as they are not yet aware of what is happening with the dialogue composition.
“It is quite difficult to make a decision for revoking the tariff. At the current situation, it is hard to make such a decision. I also agree to suspend the tariff, provided that we know the contract of talks and dialogue. If there is a contract of recognition of Kosovo within its existing borders, we can immediately consider revocation of the tariff. We are in a quite obscure situation regarding the dialogue, because we do not know what it is about. It is better to have unity in the Trepça case. Concerning the tariff, the big internal division is causing us problems,” Haradinaj said.
Cases of murdered journalists remain open to Prosecution Office
Chief Prosecutor Aleksandër Lumezi said on Thursday that the State Prosecution Office remained committed to providing a safe environment for the profession and work of journalists, and it will advocate for empowering freedom of expression, as one of the most important values of democracy in the country.
At a meeting with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir, which was attended also by National Coordinator at the State Prosecution Office for Journalists’ cases Besim Kelmendi, Lumezi expressed willingness of the State Prosecution Office to deepen cooperation and partnership with the media, in enforcing the rule of law.
At the meeting, Chief Prosecutor Lumezi informed Désir about the actions taken by the State Prosecutor institution in dealing with journalists’ cases, saying that resolving those cases remains a priority to the State Prosecution Office.
The Chief State Prosecutor spoke also about the cases of murdered and missing journalists in Kosovo in the period 1998-2005, who until recently were under the responsibility of the UNMIK and EULEX prosecutors.
According to Chief Prosecutor Lumezi, those cases remain open for the Prosecution Office, which has requested from Police to take investigative actions for shedding light on those cases.
Lumezi pledged that the State Prosecution Office would continue to work in fostering cooperation with the OSCE and with all other stakeholders that advocate for freedoms and rights of journalists in Kosovo.
On the other hand, National Coordinator at the State prosecution Office for journalists’ cases Besim Kelmendi presented to the OSCE Representative the database of the Prosecution Office, as well as the actions taken by this institution in dealing with journalists’ cases.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir stated that the OSCE Mission would assist in organising coordination meetings between the Prosecution Office, Police, and journalists, for a more direct communication and cooperation.
Limaj: Not tariff, but Platform can be guarantee for dialogue
(Klan Kosova’s summary of Zona e Debatit show)
Co-chairman of the State Delegation for Talks with Serbia Fatmir Limaj said they have made preparations, so that Kosovo can be ready for the dialogue process and for the final agreement with Serbia.
“We worked with everyone for months, and finally we managed to produce a platform with principles based on which Kosovo will have dialogue with Serbia. The tariff happened before the Dialogue Platform. We have reached a point when Kosovo has a platform which is supported by all, a platform that clearly shows position of Kosovo, which says that the territory is integral and non-negotiable, the Ahtisaari Settlement may not be reopened, and the status of Kosovo may not be negotiated. There is no better guarantee for talks with Serbia than the Platform,” Limaj stated.
”The tariff cannot be a guarantee,” he added.
Talking about their meeting on Thursday with officials of the US National Security Council, Limaj said:
“Today we told them that the tariff cannot be revoked just like that by itself. Serbia must meet requirements before the revocation. They said ‘all right. What should we ask for Serbia to do, in order for the tariff to be revoked?’ They are ready to negotiate, so that the Serbian side can make compromises, too. Today again they told us ‘what do you ask, in order for the tariff to be revoked?’
We have many requirements: Serbia should stop its aggressive actions, free movement, vehicle number plates. Another topic that was discussed today was removal of Serbian troops from the Kosovo border. They told us ‘we are not asking you to lift the tariff, but we are asking for Kosovo to present its requirements’. We said that conditioning was not a good thing. Using the tariff as a condition by Serbia is a bad example,” Limaj said.
Limaj explained they had told the US officials John Erath and Brad Berkley that since 2010, Kosovo has not received any good news, and that it is in isolation.
Fatmir Limaj said that the issue of the tariff on Serbian goods should be negotiated, so that Serbia can eliminate the reasons that compelled Kosovo to impose the 100 percent tariff.
”Internally, we discuss many sensitive issues; likewise, when a decision is made, it should be elaborated preliminarily, in order for the decision to be a mature one.
The game of who is the first, who is in favour, and who is against the tariff, does not suit state leaders.
However, Serbia should not expect that we revoke the tariff just like that. We have different points of view about this issue.
The tariff should be negotiated, Serbia should eliminate the reasons that compelled us to impose the tariff,” Limaj said.
”We need to have a unified stance, in order to move to the next unified one. The tariff should be negotiated, in order that the reasons why this decision was made can be understood,” he added.
”If this country fails to have a unified stance about the tariff, the country is not worth to enter the dialogue,” Limaj suggested.
”We should preserve relations with our friends that will accompany us. How are we going to enter the dialogue without the US? I hope that we will find a joint stance,” Limaj said.
”My stance is negotiation of the tariff: the tariff shall not be revoked without discussing our conditions. Former criminals have turned to institutional leaders in Serbia,” he emphasised.
”By the tariff, we intend to regulate forever the issue of energy, as well as the issue of goods and of trade in general,” Limaj went on saying.
In addition, Fatmir Limaj highlighted that the Platform contained a great deal of issues that will be addressed at the final phase of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
”We will no longer travel to Brussels for technical negotiations. We will go to the dialogue for recognition of our Republic; we go there with mandates from the Kosovo Assembly to conclude an issue between Kosovo and Serbia.
We have the missing persons’ issue, the damage from Serbian crimes, victims of sexual violence, and many other issues that we will address.
It would be a strategic mistake to go and negotiate anything, as long as the Republic of Serbia has not recognised us,” Limaj concluded.
Co-chairman of the State Delegation for Talks with Serbia Shpend Ahmeti said that the protagonist attitude of political figures in Kosovo has been damaging the dialogue process.
In regard to the tariff on Serbian products, he said that the US has asked for the tariff suspension.
“One should see the difference, because they have asked for suspension with deadlines, 90 days, 120 days. If there is no agreement, it re-enters into effect, or Serbia violates what we agree upon. The tariff is just, and it enjoys extensive support. Serbia has taken 100 actions, we only one. Brussels does not attack Serbia for 100 actions, and attacks us for one action,” Ahmeti stated to Zona e Debatit.
He said that at Thursday’s meeting, two officials of the US National Security Council, John Erath and Brad Berkley, asked for Kosovo to come up with its requirements for revoking the tariff.
“The US is saying, we are aware that this is a harmful decision for you, we understand the reason why it the tariff was imposed; but as a friend, it is in our interest to complete unfinished work, and we are asking for you to suspend it. I do not think that we will break up with the US, but the relations have been slightly damaged. If we think that the tariff is better for us as a state versus Serbia, let us keep it,” Ahmeti stated.
Concerning the announced measures that the US might impose to Kosovo, Ahmeti said:
“I would not say that it is a position of the US Administration. They have started with soft measures. Withdrawal of soldiers is not an official position. What they are saying is, do not let us to be blamed for blockade. In the last three months, the narration has changed; the phrase ‘legally binding agreement’ is no longer used. The US is no longer using this phrase. The US is speaking about recognition of Kosovo by Serbia. The US expects Serbia to recognise Kosovo,” Ahmeti said.