Serb leader urges Trump to bring Kosovo back to negotiating

International

FILE – In this Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 file photo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gestures during a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Serbia’s leader is urging U.S. President Donald Trump to put pressure on Kosovo to return to negotiations amid a months-long deadlock in the talks. EU-mediated status talks between Serbia and its former province have been stalled since late last year when Kosovo imposed a 100% tax on goods imported from Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, file)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s leader hailed Donald Trump’s unorthodox ways of dealing with political problems, urging the U.S. president on Friday to put pressure on Kosovo to return to negotiations amid a months-long deadlock in the talks between the wartime foes.

European Union-mediated status talks between Serbia and its ex-province have been stalled since late last year when Kosovo imposed a 100% tax on goods imported from Serbia. Belgrade refuses to resume the negotiations until the taxes are lifted. Pristina says the tariffs will be lifted only when Belgrade recognizes Kosovo’s statehood.

The talks, which are to resolve numerous differences between Belgrade and Pristina, are crucial for their possible membership in the European bloc.

Kosovo split from Serbia after a U.S.-led air war in 1999 that stopped a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists and civilians. Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 is recognized by the U.S. and most of the West, but not by Serbia and its allies Russia and China.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a letter congratulating Trump on his birthday that he has been following the U.S. president’s “energetic” and “brave” work that sometimes leads to “an unexpected approach to resolving problems.”

Vucic said he’s asking Trump to influence Pristina to lift the taxes so talks on finding “a compromise” solution can resume.

In a sign that Washington was willing to take a more active role in mediating, Trump last December urged Serbia and Kosovo to secure a “historic” deal that would bring “long-sought” peace to the Western Balkans.

In the letter to Trump made public by his office, Vucic — who has increasingly been leaning toward Russia and away from the West — invited Trump to visit Serbia.

The last American president to officially visit Serbia, then part of the Yugoslav federation, was Gerald Ford in 1975.

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