Kosovar and Serbian Leaders Seek a Resolution During Talks at the White House

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Kosovar and Serbian leaders meet in Washington for talks, Russia prepares for military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, and French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.

We’re taking a break Monday for Labor Day, but we’ll be back on Tuesday. As always, we welcome your feedback at [email protected].

Talks Represent a Step Forward, but There Is Little Prospect for a Resolution 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti will meet at the White House today for the second day of talks aimed at resolving bilateral tensions. The meeting will be hosted by U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations. It is unclear if President Donald Trump will participate.

On Thursday, Grenell tweeted that “the people of Kosovo and Serbia deserve economic normalization and the chance to create a vibrant economy,” which comports with the White House’s stated intention of “flipping the script” of the dialogue and prioritizing economic issues over political ones. Vucic will also reportedly seek to build an economic relationship with Kosovo during the meeting.

Recognition is paramount. But Kosovo has different priorities. The breakaway republic is not recognized diplomatically by Serbia, from whom it declared independence in 2008 after fighting a brutal war for independence in the late 1990s. In a Q&A with Foreign Policy on the eve of the current round of talks, Hoti said that “the main issue remains a final settlement, a peace agreement between the two countries that will solve once and forever the open issue between the two countries, which is mutual recognition.”

Withstanding the pressure. The European Union, which has so far led talks between the two sides, insists that mutual recognition is a necessary precondition for both countries to enter the bloc, but Vucic has resisted calls for recognition of Kosovo. In a Q&A with Foreign Policy in March, he warned that “the vast majority of people in Serbia … would prefer a frozen conflict [with Kosovo] to any single solution.”

Electioneering. Some observers believe that Trump is hoping the talks will help boost his foreign-policy credentials in the months leading up the November presidential election. In recent weeks, the administration has also brokered a historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and successfully pressured the Afghan government to release the last Taliban prisoners needed to begin talks with the group.


What We’re Following Today

Russia turns up the heat in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey announced late Wednesday evening that Russian forces will conduct live-fire exercises in the eastern Mediterranean amid a deepening crisis with Greece. Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the Russian exercises would be “monitored by all the countries in the region, as well as our NATO allies and European Union partners.”

It is unclear why Turkey announced the exercises on Russia’s behalf, but the two countries have sought to strengthen their ties in recent years, so

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