Washington wants to see a comprehensive agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina and is giving them room to negotiate the best deal that they can, State Department official Matthew Palmer told the European Western Balkans portal.
“What we would like to see is a comprehensive, forward leaning, locally owned agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. What we are trying to do is to give the parties themselves the space to negotiate the best deal that they can. Something that is fair, something that is durable, something that is saleable both in Serbia and Kosovo. And the leadership can talk to the people, explain, and earn a critical mass of support for it,” the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State said at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.
“That is not a blank check. When we know what that agreement is, to the extent that we have concerns about it, we would be clear about those concerns and work with the parties to address any reservations that we may have about the particulars,” he said.
Serbia has to reconcile with Kosovo to achieve its strategic goal of membership in the European Union. “We and Serbia share a goal. That goal for Serbia is to move forward on path to the membership in EU. That is Serbia’s strategic goal and something that US strongly supports,” Palmer said.
Speaking about Russia’s influence in the region, Palmer said a normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations will reduce Moscow’s influence with Serbia. “I believe that if Pristina and Belgrade are able to reach an agreement on full normalization of their relationship, that will reduce the influence that Moscow has with Serbia. A big part of that is Serbian reliance on Russia to defend its Kosovo equities internationally. Normalisation of the relationship will reduce that reliance. That will be good for Serbia as it moves closer to Europe,” he said.
Palmer said that US policy in the Western Balkans remains focused on and committed to helping the countries of the region to join the EU and, with the exception of Serbia, NATO, adding that the US wants to promote the closest possible partnership between the Alliance and Serbia. “I don’t think that it is true that Western Balkans matters less. There is always competition for time and attention but the US remains committed to this region. We remain engaged in this region. We are here, we are working closely with the governments of the Western Balkans to advance our shared objective of European integration, peace, prosperity, stability,” Palmer said.