Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he was surprised by the US decision to appoint a special envoy for the stalled dialogue between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo – while officials from Kosovo said they were looking forward to cooperate with him.
The White House on Thursday named its top diplomatic representative in Germany, Richard Grenell, as its new special envoy for the Serbia-Kosovo talks. It comes after the US State Department named Matthew Palmer as its special representative to the Western Balkans in general in August.
“This was surprising news to us. You know we have talks and negotiations under the auspices of the European Union, and we already had in mind the [new US] special envoy [to the Western Balkans], Palmer; we have a fair relationship with him. Now, apparently, President [Donald] Trump has appointed a new man as a special envoy,” Vucic responded at a press conference.
I welcome President @realDonaldTrump’s decision for name Ambassador @RichardGrenell as special envoy. I look forward working with him in ensuring finality of peace in Balkans bringing Kosovo inside @NATO and EU families. https://t.co/bdhIpre1wZ
— Hashim Thaçi (@HashimThaciRKS) October 4, 2019
Vucic added that he had scheduled a telephone conversation with Grenell and described him as “a serious, responsible man, a man of Mr Trump’s confidence, now we will see how and in which direction he will go”.
“I repeat, we have a dialogue that is orchestrated by the EU and we do not express our dissatisfaction with the way it is,” Vucic continued.
Congratulations to #US Amb. to #Germany @RichardGrenell, appointed by @POTUS as special envoy for #Kosovo – #Serbia dialogue. I look forward to working together & actively engaging in unconditional dialogue to achieve mutual recognition in existing borders. RH
— Ramush Haradinaj (@haradinajramush) October 4, 2019
Vucic held the Belgrade press conference after meeting the 17 election candidates of the Serbian-backed party, in Kosovo, Srpska lista, and the director of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, ahead of parliamentary elections in Kosovo due on Sunday.
Kosovo leaders welcomed the new appointment with less reservation. President Hashim Thaci tweeted that he looked forward to working with Grenell, “in ensuring finality of peace in Balkans, and bringing Kosovo inside the NATO and EU families”.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj also congratulated Grenell and tweeted that he was looking forward to cooperating.
The two appointments signal a revival of US interest in the Balkans, as EU-led initiatives appeared to stumble. The EU-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was designed to lead to a normalisation of relations between Serbia and its former province, whose independence in 2008 it refuses to recognise. But the talks practically ceased after November 2018, when Kosovo imposed a 100-per-cent tariff on Serbian goods. This came after Belgrade successfully lobbied against Kosovo’s bid to join Interpol. Subsequent attempts to revive the dialogue have had no success.