October 08, 2019

Trump Envoy to Visit Kosovo After Opposition Wins Snap Election
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump’s new envoy to Serbia and Kosovo will visit the region days after elections in the smaller of the two neighbors raise the possibility of fresh efforts to end one of the Balkans' most stubborn disputes.Richard Grenell, who’ll also retain his role as ambassador to Berlin, will arrive Wednesday in Kosovo, President Hashim Thaci’s office said by email. Thaci welcomed Grenell’s appointment last week, saying on Facebook that it represents “yet more evidence that President Trump, the U.S. administration and the entire American state stand by us at every important step.”Grenell’s trip could mark a change of tack, with the European Union for years taking the lead in mediating discussions between the former wartime foes. Talks stalled last year when Serbian lobbying against Kosovo’s international recognition triggered a retaliatory import tax that escalated tensions between the two neighbors.Thaci’s Serbian counterpart, President Aleksandar Vucic, said Grenell’s appointment came as a surprise, as the State Department had already made Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer its special representative for the region in August. Serbia’s news agency Tanjug reported late on Tuesday that Grenell is also supposed to visit Belgrade this week.Local officials declined to comment immediately on Grenell’s meetings in Kosovo, where the party of left-leaning, nationalist leader Albin Kurti won most votes on Sunday, followed by another opposition group. The two may form a coalition government replacing outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was the tariff’s key champion.If Kurti takes over as premier, he may serve as Kosovo’s top representative in any new talks with Serbia, which needs to mend times to proceed with talks aimed at EU membership.But he’s already signaled a tough stance toward his neighbor, from which Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after a war that ended with NATO intervention against Serb troops. Kurti has also been a fierce critic of Thaci, which may complicate relations among the nation’s potential top leaders.Kurti told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that negotiations with Belgrade “cannot be top priority on day one of me as a new prime minister.” The tariff won’t go away during his term in office unless the principle of reciprocity is put in place, he told the news agency.(Adds Kurti’s comments on talks with Serbia in last paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, ;Irina Vilcu at isavu@bloomberg.net, Andrew LangleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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