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news 14 Jul 15

Nuland to Press Serbia on Talks With Kosovo

On the latest leg of her Balkan tour, the US Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, was due in Belgrade on Tuesday, to discuss progress in the EU-led talks with Kosovo.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic | Photo by Serbian Government

Ahead of her arrival in Belgrade, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland urged Serbia and Kosovo to make courageous decisions in order to achieve further progress in the EU-led dialogue process.

According to the Belgrade daily newspaper Blic, Nuland credits Serbia and Kosovo with making some progress - and the US wants 2015 to be a year of additional improvement.

“We want 2015 to be a year of progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina so that the EU can open the first chapters in the negotiations with Serbia and sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo,” Blic cited Nuland as saying on July 13.

Latest talks between Serbia and Kosovo brokered by the EU on June 29 ended with no signed agreements. 

Four key issues remain outstanding between Serbia and its former province: telecommunications, energy, the formation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities and freedom of movement between the Serbian and Albanian parts of the divided town of Mitrovica.

Nenad Djurdjevic, coordinator of Belgrade-based Forum for Ethnic Relations NGO, told BIRN that Nuland will push for cooperation during her talks in Belgrade while respecting Serbia's key role in the region.

“The US is mostly interested in regional issues, particulary Serbia’s relations with Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia…The Americans want peace and cooperation in the Balkans and Serbia is among the key players,” he said.

Djurdjevic added that Nuland will want to find out whether European integration is still the priority for all of Serbia's main political players since they sometimes make “dissonant statements.”

“Nuland will certainly support the Serbian government’s regional policy. The Serbian Prime Minister’s departure for Srebrenica was especially important for that,” Djurdjevic continued.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attended the commemoration ceremony in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, for the victims of the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniaks at the hands of Bosnian Serbs under Ratko Mladic.

His attendance was seen as a sign of official Serbian acknowledgement of the gravity of the crime. However, he was attacked at the ceremony by people who threw stones and water bottles at him before being hustled away by security officers and so missing the commemoration.

Belgrade analyst Dusan Janjic believes that Nuland will also want to discuss Serbia's relations with its old ally in Moscow. “Russia’s influence is still very strong in Serbia,” Janjic told Blic on July 13.

The US recently urged Belgrade to diversify its gas supply routes. Serbia currently receives all its natural gas from Russia.

Before visiting Serbia, Nuland visited Macedonia on Monday to try and broker an end to the political crisis there between the opposition and the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. She also visited Albania on Monday, where she encouraged the government to pursue judicial reforms.

Earlier on her tour, on Sunday, Nuland met top officials in neighbouring Kosovo to discuss the formation of a special court to try war crimes.

She warned Kosovo lawmakers that if Kosovo does not agree to create the Court on its own, the UN would do it anyway, and Kosovo’s relationship with the international community could then be in question.

The establishment of the court has been held up by resistance in parliament to ratification of amendments needed to allow for its formation.

In Montenegro, also on Sunday, Nuland called on authorities to "consolidate the rule of law" and change public perceptions of the effectiveness in fighting organised crime and corruption.

Nuland's visit regional tour also includes visits to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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