An American official who will soon take over the position of an Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, Philip Reeker, has called on Pristina to abolish the tariffs, reports Serbian media quoting the portal nezavisen.mk.
According to the North Macedonia news portal nezavisen.mk he also called on Belgrade to focus on the strategic interest “instead of being aggressive in rejecting Kosovo.”
Reeker said that Kosovo and Serbia “risk to spend a generation’s best chance” to resolve the dispute and added that the United States again calls on Belgrade and Pristina to remove barriers to negotiations and enable the dialogue to move forward.
“Part of this should be the decision of Kosovo to lift tariffs for goods from Serbia and BiH,” said Reeker, who on March 18 should take over the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia.
He pointed out that the issue of tariff had violated Kosovo’s relations with the United States.
According to the North Macedonia portal, Reeker said that the US understands the “frustration and desire of Kosovo citizens to control their fate and improve the integration of Kosovo into the international system” and added that support for Kosovo’s independence and sovereignty is not called into question, but the US has a request for Kosovo.
“The United States has invested considerable capital in the success of Kosovo as an independent, multi-ethnic and sovereign country, and we stood behind you, many times. But this time we came with a request, the US, your closest strategic partner and friend, believes that reaching an agreement with Serbia is the only way for Kosovo. It’s harder that Kosovo cannot return to negotiations with Serbia if it does not abolish the tariffs,” Reeker said.
He said that “at the same time, it is sad and surprising that the US still has serious misunderstanding with the government in Pristina on the issue.”
“I am afraid that the position of Kosovo has damaged our bilateral relations that we greatly appreciate. Kosovo does not lose anything by negotiation, but it is risking everything if it does not negotiate,” Reeker said, adding that the US is seeking temporary tariff limitation to see what can be achieved at the negotiating table.
Reeker urged Belgrade to focus on the strategic interest “instead of being aggressive in rejecting Kosovo.”
“By campaigning to encourage countries to withdraw recognition of Kosovo and block its membership in international organizations such as Interpol, Belgrade has disrupted the atmosphere of compromise and progress in an agreement that should provide a European future,” Reeker said.
He stressed that Kosovo and Serbia must question themselves what the alternative to normalizing relations is, saying that “the two countries will lose the most from the frozen conflict, because the lack of agreement means reduced security, slow economic growth and freezing aspirations for joining the EU”.
As he pointed out, the US does not advocate for any conclusive solution, and the international community does not dictate conditions, nor offers a blank check, since the solution should be enforceable, permanent and contribute to regional stability.
“We will seriously consider the agreement that both parties believe meet these conditions,” Reeker said at a seminar within the ‘Balkan 360’ project, organized by the German Marshall Plan in Skopje.