A high-level meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels on Tuesday failed to resolve the stalemate on the implementation of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities. Kurti rejected the draft proposal presented to him, claiming it resembled the Republika Srpska model. However, both US Envoy Gabriel Escobar and EU High Representative Josep Borrell have publicly stated on numerous occasions that the Republika Srpska model is not the one the EU wants to implement.
President Vucic expressed concern that the talks had reached a dead-end, with the Agreement potentially collapsing due to Kurti’s refusal to implement the Association of Serb-majority municipalities.
When asked by The Pavlovic Today about the path forward if the Agreement cannot be implemented under Kurti, and whether this would require a newly-elected Kosovo government, Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar shared the US stance on the issue.
“The European Union and the United States are very focused on making sure that this agreement, which we worked very hard on, becomes a reality. And that reality begins with the association,” said Escobar. He emphasized that the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is “centered on the rights of minorities, particularly Serb minorities in Kosovo.” US Envoy for the Western Balkans stressed that this aspect of the implementation of what has been agreed in Ohrid is “absolutely critical.”
Blinken’s top diplomat for the Western Balkans made the US stance clear.“It’s our expectation and I would say it’s our demand that we move forward on this.”
Escobar said that “we have seen an evolution on both sides” regarding the issue. He acknowledged that Serbia made it clear that it needs the Association of the Serb-Majority municipalities in Kosovo and Kurti presented its principles on how the Association of Serb-majority municipalities would look.
“I would say that we have the beginnings of a discussion on this and we just need to push forward continually until we reach a workable model,” shared Escobar. “Further refinements to their positions” are expected when Vucic and Kurti meet again within two weeks.
According to Escobar, the proposal presented yesterday by the Management Team is “serious,” and it is up to the parties to negotiate a workable model that is consistent with European principles and requirements. The goal of the US through the EU-facilitated dialog is for the Association of the Serb-majority municipalities to serve as a platform for ethnic Serbs to participate in the civic and democratic life of Kosovo.
“There is no pressure on one side to unilaterally accept” the statue of the Association of the Serb-majority municipalities, and it has to be a result of negotiation, said Escobar. “Our expectations are very clear. Our aspirations are very high and our support for both sides to come to a mutually, I would say advantageous position is also clear,” concluded Escobar.
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