US to support Serbia amid tensions with Kosovo if Belgrade joins Russian sanctions

by Cristian Florescu

Following the visit of envoys from the European Union and the United States to the area last Friday, the international community expects Serbia and Kosovo to take steps to reduce tensions between Kosovans and Serbs and assist reach a reconciliation accord.

As Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues, the territorial issue between the two former war rivals remains a source of instability in the Balkans.

However, Washington is willing to grant Belgrade economic and diplomatic help in exchange for Serbia joining Western partners in sanctioning Russia.

Gabriel Escobar, the US special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, talked with Euronews Serbia.

“Serbia has a critical option to make, and if they want to, they can indicate it through sanctions [against Russia],” he stated. “Now, I think that they should apply sanctions, I think that everybody in Europe should impose sanctions, based on what’s occurring in Ukraine.

“But that is a decision for Serbia. I just believe it’s a horrible look for Serbia to be outside of mainstream Europe [on this issue] “, He went on to say.

If Serbia completely cooperates with the West, Washington and Brussels may request that Kosovo accept Serbia’s demand for a “community of Serb majority towns” in northern Kosovo.

In exchange, the US expects Brussels to play its share by pushing forward with EU integration and speeding up the membership process.

Serbia formally sought for EU membership in December 2009, although accession talks are still underway.

Kosovo formally applied for membership in the EU in December 2022.

“At the conclusion of this process, I want to see that the EU is dedicated to Western Balkans expansion and that Western Balkan nations are on track to completely integrate into the EU within a realistic time frame. I don’t mean 20 years, but rather much sooner “Escobar said.

According to Escobar, the issuance of harmonised Western Balkans car license plates would be one of the finest options to assist both sides to merge.

Last November, tensions between Serbia and its former province flared up again following the Kosovo government’s decision to prohibit the use of Serbian-issued license plates, mirroring Serbia’s prior prohibition on Kosovo license plates.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia unilaterally in 2008. The Serbian government, backed by China and Russia, has refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence. The United States and the majority of its European allies recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

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