Kosovo PM hails as ‘positive signs’ recent deals with Serbia

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Kosovo’s outgoing prime minister on Monday considered as “positive signs” two recently-achieved agreements with Serbia that will restore air and railway traffic between the two former war foes.

Speaking after paying respects at a memorial in Pristina for Holocaust victims, Ramush Haradinaj said the two deals would “not damage” Kosovo, adding that they would also push the country to repair its railway system, which is in “a miserable situation.”

Relations between Kosovo and Serbia have remained tense despite European Union-mediated negotiations, which started in 2011. They have been stalled since Haradinaj imposed a trade tax on Serbian goods in 2018.

Serbia doesn’t accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, although its former province has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the U.S. and most EU nations.

Last week, senior U.S. officials brokered the air and railway deals. First Serbia, Kosovo and German airline Lufthansa signed an agreement at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on the resumption of commercial flights.

On Monday, Kosovo and Serb officials were negotiating the terms of resuming rail service.

Xheme Veseli of Kosovo’s infrastructure ministry said they were having “good talks” on resuming the rail link and had already agreed to “successfully end the talks in the next days.”

Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo who visited Pristina and Belgrade last week, urged both sides to focus on the economy, new jobs and prosperity as the way toward normalizing ties. He called on Serbia to stop its international de-recognition campaign against Kosovo and on Pristina to lift the 100% tariff.

Serbia’s brutal intervention against Kosovo’s independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 prompted NATO to intervene to stop the conflict.

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