"Kosovo is not ready to negotiate borders"

Matthew Palmer said today that when it comes to borders and territories, he does not see it as an issue on which Kosovo is ready to engage.

Source: B92, Blic

US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer adds that he believes that there are much more productive areas for discussion at this moment that need to be addressed.

Such as, for example, missing persons, an area around which both parties can reach an agreement.

At the same time, he points out that the United States encourages, "as it has done so far, the full implementation of the Brussels Agreement, and all its areas, including the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM)."

Tomorrow, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State ends his two-day visit to Serbia, which he started in order to start the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina from the deadlock together with the EU representative Miroslav Lajcak.

In an interview with "Blic", he said that he would like to see both sides seriously engage again in the process that will lead to an agreement and normalization of relations, and open the way to Europe.

Asked whether Kurti and Vučić could be the ones to sign the agreement in 2021, Palmer said that he thought it was absolutely possible.

"I think it is absolutely possible. But it is really up to them, and what we would like is to encourage them to get involved. Both President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti have strong political support, they are in a position to get seriously involved in the whole process, identify the parts where an agreement can be reached and help move the whole process forward".

He points out that the goal of the dialogue is complete normalization of relations. And he says that is what is necessary in order to re-establish the European perspective that both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to. On the conclusion that Serbia does not recognize Kosovo, the US special envoy for the Western Balkans says that he understands. "I understand that, and it's not something that starts with, it starts with identifying key topics such as missing persons, freedom of movement."

Asked if he might have brought some non-paper, which is now appearing in the EU, Palmer said that he came empty-handed.

"No, I came empty-handed. I came with a message. And the message is that the US and the EU are partners in the process of facilitating the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Miroslav Lajcak is the EU special representative for dialogue and other issues in the Western Balkans. Serbia and Kosovo are the parties to the negotiations and they are the ones leading the process. Miroslav Lajcak is mediating the talks, and the United States is supporting the process".

He added that non-paper means nothing.

"There are many things and topics that can be discussed, I reject those random non-papers for which no one accepts responsibility. When it comes to borders and territories, I do not see it as an issue that Kosovo is ready to engage in, and I believe that there are much more productive areas to talk about at the moment".

Which borders are fixed?

He says that the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia are fixed, and that no one is talking about changing the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that no one is talking about changing the borders of North Macedonia, and that this is not an issue.

"What is at stake here is defining a normal relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, and what Belgrade and Pristina can agree on. We will help their path to the EU, and Serbia and Kosovo are striving for a European future. Kosovo wants to be a part of it and in order to achieve that, they have to agree and a normal relationship is something that the EU and NATO will demand. The US would like to see a European Serbia, a European Kosovo, and all the countries of the Western Balkans in the EU family. It is exactly what this dialogue is about, identifying areas that need to be worked on and addressed, in order for the relationship to function the way normal relationships work".

Serbian Orthodox Church on the agenda of the dialogue in Brussels?

He also referred to whether the Serbian Orthodox Church should be on the agenda of the dialogue in Brussels.

"Certainly the Serbian Orthodox Church and the position of the SPC in Kosovo is something about which it is normal for Serbia to be interested, and I think it is very important that the position of the Serb ethnic community in Kosovo is strong, and that Serbs in Kosovo see Kosovo as their home, a place where they can raise their families, where their children can have safe and prosperous lives, and ensuring the protection of church property in Kosovo is an important part of that". He says that Decani is not only important to Serbs, and that it is part of the common cultural heritage of all mankind.

"I have not been to Decani for more than 20 years, this was my first visit to the monastery after a long time. And I visited the church again, and those frescoes in that church in Decani are, I would say, the most beautiful in Byzantine art on the entire planet. That church, as a work of art, belongs to all of us. It is important to preserve and maintain that artistic heritage, both for the Serbs and for the people of Kosovo and for the Americans".


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