Newspaper Article - The Washington Post

A Planned Kosovo-Serbia Meeting at the White House is Falling Apart. It Was Always a Bad Idea.

| June 24, 2020

By Nicholas Burns and Frank Wisner

Kosovo, a major preoccupation for Washington in decades past, is back in the news in Washington.

President Trump’s grand plan to invite Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic to meet at the White House on June 27 may be falling apart before it begins, after the Kosovo Specialist Chambers announced on Wednesday indictments against Thaci and others on war crimes charges.

Since Kosovo declared its independence in early 2008, with the strong support of President George W. Bush, it has been recognized by scores of countries, but not by Serbia, from which it seceded. The Trump administration was hoping to encourage the two leaders to put aside their many legal and political differences and begin working toward mutual recognition.

Trump’s team is arguing that an infusion of international private investment will provide a foundation for an eventual settlement. This is a big bet by an administration that has shown little interest in Europe, yet alone the Balkans, during the past 3½ years. There are several potential problems with Trump’s plan, and the indictment against Thaci should provide the administration an additional reason to reconsider its approach to the negotiations.

First, Trump has been conducting a solo diplomatic campaign in Kosovo rather than working in tandem with the European Union, including major allies Germany and France. He spurned the E.U.’s own negotiator and even French President Emmanuel Macron, who had also volunteered to host a summit. The United States and the E.U., for the first time in two decades, are leading separate and often conflicting negotiating campaigns, confusing both Serbs and Kosovars. This threatens to slow, rather than advance, ultimate progress toward an agreement.

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