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AP interview: Kosovo president hopes for deal with Serbia

By SYLEJMAN KLLOKOQIFebruary 14, 2019
FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 file photo, Kosovo president Hashim Thaci gestures during a press conference in Kosovo capital Pristina. Kosovo’s president is very hopeful they will reach an overall deal to normalize ties with Serbia in 2019. On Sunday, Feb. 17 Kosovo celebrates its 11th anniversary of independence it declared in 2008, nine years after it came under U.N. and NATO administration following the 1999 NATO-led air war that halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 file photo, Kosovo president Hashim Thaci gestures during a press conference in Kosovo capital Pristina. Kosovo’s president is very hopeful they will reach an overall deal to normalize ties with Serbia in 2019. On Sunday, Feb. 17 Kosovo celebrates its 11th anniversary of independence it declared in 2008, nine years after it came under U.N. and NATO administration following the 1999 NATO-led air war that halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu, File)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The president of Kosovo said Thursday he thinks there is “good momentum” to reach an agreement this year to normalize ties with Serbia.

Kosovo commemorates its 2008 declaration of independence on Feb. 17 each year. It is recognized as its own country by 116 nations, but not by the one from which it unilaterally separated, Serbia.

Kosovo is a success story, President Hashim Thaci told The Associated Press in an interview.

“Kosovo’s independence has brought more peace and stability in the Western Balkans,” he said.

Thaci mentioned strong support from the United States and the European Union, and Russia’s pledge to accept a Pristina-Belgrade agreement.

Many challenges lie ahead, all of which should be resolved through the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia that started in 2011, he said.

The talks are stalled, however.

Last year Kosovo decided to set a 100 percent import tariff on Serb goods until Belgrade recognized its sovereignty and stopped preventing it from joining international organizations.

Serbia has said the tariff is costing a lot to its businesses and it won’t take part in the dialogue until the measure is lifted.

Thaci urged his government to temporarily suspend the tariff, but also said Serbia should not make it a condition of resuming dialogue.

Both Washington and Brussels have urged an end of the tariff. Pristina has not responded so far.

Kosovo’s stubbornness seems to have angered Washington, Kosovo’s biggest strategic partner. An army general who was due to visit Kosovo for the 11th independence anniversary canceled his trip.

“But there is no coldness (from U.S.) toward Kosovo as a country or its population,” Thaci said.

The European Union has told Serbia and Kosovo they need to settle their differences before joining the EU.

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Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

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Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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