Kupchan on "land swap, recognition of Kosovo and saving face by keeping dignity"

"A land swap should be on the Belgrade-Pristina negotiating table, if this could pave the way to a long-term stability and normalization of their relations"

Source: Tanjug
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Foto: Depositphotos/borkus
Foto: Depositphotos/borkus

Charles Kupchan, US Foreign Affairs Council member and Georgetown University Professor has told this to Radio Free Europe.

"If annexing northern Kosovo gives the Serbian government and its people the feeling that they have "saved face" to the extent that they would be willing to recognize Kosovo's independence - then I think it must be done because it is a step forward towards long-term stability and peace in the Balkans", Kupchan has told Radio Free Europe.

When asked how the resumption of dialogue could be achieved, Kupchan, former Director for European Affairs within the National Security Council in the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said that the exchange of territories should be on the negotiation table.

"Despite some risk to the region due to the insistence of others to redraw borders along the ethnic lines, this proposal provides at least one additional option for getting out of the deadlock. Of course, this would require the consent of both the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, and it is not so certain, particularly from the Kosovo side", Kupchan assessed.

When asked if this would cause the tensions in the region in general, he reiterated that the positive effect of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina urges going forward, regardless of the possible risks that such a solution may pose in Bosnia and Herzegovina and perhaps Macedonia, due to current tensions between Macedonians and Albanians.

He added that he doesn't think that it is politically or morally more embarrassing than separating so-called Kosovo from Serbia, which he considered was also a redrawing of borders along the ethnic lines.

"If it is possible to reach permanent solution for Kosovo-Serbia relations as a consequence of territory exchange, I would have supported it for pragmatic reasons. It is very difficult for Kosovo to move forward and function as a democratic country while one part of the country does not want to belong to that state. Northern Kosovo still has strong ties with Serbia. Majority of Serb population there does not want to remain within Kosovo borders", Kupchan said.

According to him, some would be certainly willing to try to use land swap as an excuse for redrawing borders along ethnic lines, but this tolerance of deviating from the standard norms would contribute to greater stability", Kupchan said.

"In case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a secession of Republika Srpska would have a destabilizing effect. Therefore, international community should strongly oppose this option", Kupchan concluded.

Kupchan reiterated that it is hard to determine what the official US policy is on this issue.

"In the same time, if the imposed tariffs were abolished and dialogue restarted, the US could become more directly involved in the effort to reach an agreement. The fact that Bolton briefly showed potential support to territory exchange implies that he could get personally involved in this, should the circumstances call for it", Kupchan said.

He added that the EU approach that Belgrade had to resolve the dispute with Pristina prior to Serbia joining EU, proved to be inefficient.

On the other hand, he is skeptical when it comes to US becoming more directly engaged in the dialogue because Donald Trump's administration doesn't perceive Balkan as priority.

"Generally speaking, President Trump tends to resolve many international problems, so his administration is focused on other urgent issues, such as Syria and Afghanistan, trying to pull US troops out of there prior to the elections in 2020. This means that the ball is still in the European yard," Kupchan concluded.

He added that at the end of the process, Serbia would have to recognize Kosovo, along with paving its way to EU integrations.

"The Serbian authorities are not helping along the way with their policy of showing inclination towards the West and Russia at the same time. Russia is taking advantage by manipulating divisions in the Balkans. We are aware that Russia tried to block Montenegro's entry into NATO Alliance, as well as to stop the Athens-Skopje agreement on Macedonia's name, along with exploiting divisions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, in the end, Balkan states will realize that their future will be much more prosperous if they choose EU integration path than if they remain alone in the open", Kupchan concluded.

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