Trump’s envoy for Kosovo talks starts 1st visit to region

International

Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaci, right, shakes hands with President Donald Trump’s envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Ambassador Richard Grenell in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s new special envoy to the stalled talks between Serbia and Kosovo made his first visit to the troubled Balkan region Wednesday.

Ambassador Richard Grenell, the top U.S. diplomat in Germany, met with political leaders in Kosovo, including President Hashim Thaci and the party leader likely to be the next prime minister, Albin Kurti.

Kurti’s party, the Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje, won a snap election Sunday. The party said on its Facebook page that during a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, Grenell wanted to hear its position on possibilities for an agreement to normalize relations with Serbia before he visits Belgrade on Thursday.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008, a decade after a bloody 1998-99 war in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian fighters and Serbian forces. Belgrade still considers Kosovo to be Serbian territory, not a country.

Kurti, who is poised to become Kosovo’s next prime minister, has said he is in no rush to restart formal talks with Serbia and won’t lift the previous government’s 100% tariff on Serb imports.

The White House last week said Grenell would serve as Trump’s special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations. European Union-mediated talks between the two countries broke down over a number of issues.

Officials in both Serbia and Kosovo welcomed the appointment as a sign of stepped-up U.S. engagement in the region.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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