Congressman Engel and Senator Menendez: Trump Administration unbalanced between Serbia and Kosovo

United States Capitol in Washington; Photo: WikiCommons / Scrumshus

WASHINGTON – United States Congressmen of the Democratic Party Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his party colleague Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the Trump Administration to continue diplomatic support to resolve the Kosovo-Serbia conflict in a way that’s fair to both countries and consistent with US law and longstanding policy.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the lawmakers cautioned that the Administration’s heavy-handed approach to Kosovo unfairly penalizes the country’s new government and that Serbia’s derecognition campaign against Kosovo and close ties to the Kremlin have gone largely unchecked.

They reminded  that, on 23 January, US Special Envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Richard Grenell urged Serbia to end its derecognition campaign at the same time as he urged Kosovo to drop its tariffs. However, according to them, since that day US public pressure on Serbia appears to have been dropped amidst the intensified pressure on Kosovo.

“The US has taken a heavy-handed approach toward the elected government in Kosovo. While we agree that Kosovo’s tariffs on Serbian goods — which have now been lifted — mainly hurt Kosovo and its citizens, this tool has been used by governments around the world, frequently including the Trump Administration. Kosovo is a close ally of the United States, and we urge you to adopt a patient and constructive approach with its democratically-elected government,” wrote Engel and Menendez.

They added that any effort to negotiate a path forward between Belgrade and Pristina should be done in concert with Brussels and other key capitals across the continent.

According to Eliot and Menendez, Trump Administration’s lack of balance between Belgrade and Prishtina is taking place in the context of Serbia expanding ties with Moscow and increasing imports of Russian armaments.

“These weapons purchases require the Administration to impose sanctions on Serbia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed by Congress in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. In your response, please inform us why the Administration has neither imposed those sanctions nor actively pressed Serbia to end its global derecognition efforts”, they wrote.

Engel and Menendez wrote that they are encouraged that the State Department has been able to negotiate confidence building measures, including the recent air transit arrangement between Serbia and Kosovo.

“We appreciate this progress, but we urge that in the days ahead the Administration avoid heavy-handed, unbalanced tactics as it works with Kosovo and Serbia to reach a comprehensive peace settlement that reflects the will of the people of both countries”, they concluded.