Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bore witness to the testimonies of State Department officials, Blinken’s top diplomats DAS Gabriel Escobar and Counselor Derek Chollet responsible for handling affairs in the Western Balkans.
Yesterday, during the State Department’s inaugural press briefing, where the new spokesperson, Matt Miller, took center stage, The Pavlovic Today followed up with questions pertaining to the aforementioned Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer pointed out that Counselor Chollet, in his testimony, expressed the desire of the United States to “deepen” its relationship with Serbia. Simultaneously, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, launched an attack on the Serbian President at the commencement of the hearing on the Western Balkans while the ongoing, high-stakes negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo are taking place.
“Do you find this approach constructive and aligned with the US diplomatic effort and what Blinken is trying to achieve with Serbia and Kosovo?” Pavlovic McAteer inquired of Blinken’s spokesperson. She further asked, “Chollet said that the Western Balkans is the top priority for the Biden administration. He said, quote, for many of us, this is personal. What does ‘personal’ mean exactly?”
Miller did not have an immediate answer but since then has followed up with a comprehensive answer for The Pavlovic Today.
“The democratic and prosperous future of the entire Western Balkans is a priority for the Biden Administration. The Counselor [Derek Chollet] and other Administration officials working to help the region fulfill its enormous promise have decades of experience with these issues,” Miller told The Pavlovic Today. “Our overarching goal is to advance regional peace, stability, and closer economic ties in the Western Balkans – which supports the region’s progress on European integration,” said Miller. “Every country, including Serbia, has a role to play in this process. At the same time, we must also be clear-eyed about the challenges,” he added.
Blinken’s spokesperson further elaborated the US diplomatic effort towards Serbia and Kosovo, stating, “Constructive, good faith efforts by both Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated Dialogue will secure a peaceful, predictable relationship as neighbors with lasting benefits for their citizens, including economic growth, regional stability, and progress towards EU integration.” Miller said that both Belgrade and Pristina “must implement” their commitments under their normalization Agreement. “This includes immediate progress toward establishing the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.”
As for the vexing matter of attacks on the Serbian President amid these high-stakes negotiations, Miller referred the inquiry to Senator Menendez’s office regarding the statements he made.
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