BLED – My goal is to return Belgrade and Pristina to the negotiating table as soon as possible and to ensure the reaching of an agreement, states Matthew Palmer, new Special Representative of the United States for the Western Balkans in an interview for Tanjug.
New American Representative stresses that he has accepted the position because he believes he can achieve an agreement on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina which would transform the entire Balkans, open Serbia’s and Kosovo’s European path and would be “a positive thing for the region, Europe and the United States”.
“Solution of the issue of Kosovo is very high on my agenda. We have a possibility and we want to use it”, says Palmer.
The return of Belgrade and Pristina to the negotiating table is a short-term goal of the United States, Palmer emphasises.
“Election in Kosovo takes place on 6 October, and in Serbia next Spring. We will have a possibility to continue with the negotiations in between two elections, and we should use it. We hope that the both sides will use the opportunity that is presenting itself”, he stresses.
Palmer says that there are many challenges in this process, and that one of them is to continue with the negotiations as soon as possible, while the other is to find enough common ground.
He expressed his hope that the next Kosovo government will accept to suspend tariffs so that the dialogue can be renewed, and that Belgrade will stop its efforts for “international de-legitimization of Kosovo” and lobbying for the revoking of recognition by other countries.
All of that, according to him, is poisoning the atmosphere and making the return to the constructive spirit of negotiations hard.
Asked why, if there are no red lines in the dialogue, as is officially repeated, is Serbia’s lobbying against Kosovo’s independence a problem, Palmer says that the lobbying has caused the tariffs, which have become an obstacle to the dialogue.
“Something like that is not helpful. Lobbying small countries to revoke their recognition may be a tactical success for Serbia, but it prevents Belgrade from maintain its interest and achieve normalisation agreement. We hope that both sides will understand their interest and achieve an agreement”, he says.
United States want to see mutual recognition as a central part of the agreement, Palmer is unambiguous.
He emphasises that nobody should have a feeling that he has lost, and that there is no reason for a compromise not to be a victory for Serbia, Kosovo and international community.
According to Palmer, both the United States and Serbia want the same thing – progress towards the European future of Serbia.
“We wish a European perspective for Serbia. Serbia has United States’ support, which is also the case with Kosovo. We want to help the sides to meet, identify the points of common interest, but also their differences and to reach an agreement which would be best for their future”, he explained.
Asked what would happen if there is no agreement, Palmer answers that both sides would be at loss.
“We hope that it is possible to reach an agreement, and the friendship, support and active engagement of the United States can be expected in the process”, states Palmer.
Asked whether the interpretation of the part of the public about the connection between the urging of the West for an agreement to be reached by next June and Donald Trump’s wish that the solution comes within his mandate, Palmer says that the wish to achieve an agreement is not in accordance with American political calendar, but the fact that the longer the dispute lasts, the harder will it be to achieve an agreement.
“I hope that the sides will understand the need for urgency and return to the dialogue as soon as the elections in Kosovo are concluded and the new government is formed”, concluded Palmer.