BRUSSELS – US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans and EU Special Representative for the Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue, Gabriel Escobar and Miroslav Lajčak, called Kurti and Vučić to focus on dialogue and contribute to de-escalating the situation in the north of Kosovo, warning that, in the opposite, both parties will face consequence.
Escobar said that the crisis in north of Kosovo “has the potential to become a regional conflict”, and called on President of Serbia and Prime Minister of Kosovo “to unconditionally accept” the European point plan for de-escalation.
“There is no other option except through de-escalation and return to dialogue. And I do have to say that the transatlantic community is very united on this. The idea that one of the two leaders is going to place conditions on a plan that has been carefully developed by the European Union in coordination with the United States, I think is reckless,” said Escobar, N1 reported.
The US envoy said that, from the perspective of the US government, the defining characteristic of the Western Balkans is tremendous opportunity.
“I do believe that the next generation of people in the Balkans really do want to capitalize on that opportunity, but we can’t do that while we’re in a permanent state of crisis,” he said, adding he believes “there are people in the region who do survive politically off of permanent crises”.
“I am hoping that the parties and the leaders will recognize that de-escalation and the dialogue is the only way forward for the region to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that are presented,” said Escobar.
He noted that the consequences are very clear.
“We are offering partnership, and we are offering coordination on major foreign policy priorities. If we can’t get basic coordination and basic communication, then we can’t move forward on the things that Ohrid promised, which is for both countries Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.
Esobar added that the US was “prepared to move very quickly to implement the promise of Ohrid, to bring Kosovo closer to Europe and NATO, to bring more investment to the region, including in Serbia,” but that this is not possible “if we don’t have the cooperation and we don’t have a common vision, and right now I’m afraid we don’t.”
Lajčak said he was “not overly worried” about Vucic’s and Kurti’s rhetoric on the meeting they have been invited to by EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell, adding he believes they will attend.
“To say ‘no’ to the invitation from the European Union would really be a very serious and a very negative act. Therefore, the meeting will take place. What is extremely, extremely important is de-escalation, because you cannot have a normalization process as long as you have hundreds if not thousands of people out in the streets,” said Lajčak.
He explained that the next Vucic-Kurti meeting in Brussels will be a “crisis management” meeting, not one focused on the normalization of relations.
Lajčak said he is expecting both leaders to be committed to finding a solution and added that, if the requests are ignored, measures will follow.
He explained that the first step should be taken by the Kosovo government, which should tell the mayors in northern Kosovo municipalities to carry out their duties from alternate locations, followed by the next step that should be taken by Serbia. If Serbia does not do what it should, negative measures will follow, said Lajčak.
Asked what will happen if Kurti does not change his position, Lajčak said he does not think escalation or the risk of further violence is in Prime Minister Kurti’s interest.
“I do believe he is a democrat and he believes in rule of law, and I believe in dialogue and in the way forward which was agreed by the parties involved,” said Lajčak.
Asked what will happen if Vučić fails to change his position, Lajčak said he does not want to “speculate about what if” and added that the two leaders never said ‘no’ and that he does not believe they will do so this time.