The US to name Palmer to mediate Belgrade-Pristina talks

Washington is planning to jump back into the Balkans by appointing a new envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Foreign Policy Magazine said on its web site on Friday.

AUTHOR: N1 Belgrade, Foreign Policy Magazine

It quoted officials familiar with the Kosovo issue who said that the State Department is expected to name career diplomat Matthew Palmer to the post while keeping him in his position as deputy assistant secretary of state. “His expected appointment represents the latest push by the US to address tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, two decades after an armed conflict that sparked a NATO intervention and eventually led to Kosovo breaking off and declaring itself independent from Serbia,” the magazine said.

The magazine said that some experts welcomed Palmer’s appointment to resolve the problem in a region often overlooked by top US policymakers, at least since the intensive efforts made to end the deadly conflicts in the 1990s. It said that a solution to the dispute would help the countries of the region move closer to the European Union and the West amid efforts by Russia and China to expand their influence in the Balkans.

“The appointment of a new special envoy for the Balkans clearly indicates the United States is getting much more involved in this issue in a formal way,” foreign policy expert Daniel Vajdich said adding that this increases the likelihood we’re going to find a solution for Kosovo before the end of the Trump administration.

A current official who spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity questioned whether the naming of a new US envoy would bring positive policy shifts or restart the Serbia-Kosovo negotiations.

The US played a leading role in brokering peace in the former Yugoslavia after the wars of the 1990s and more recently, US diplomats played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping Greece and North Macedonia strike a historic deal that resolved a name dispute last year, paving the way for North Macedonia to join NATO.

Palmer’s expected appointment comes after a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in New York earlier this month. Pompeo urged Vucic to restart talks with Kosovo and “engage with the spirit of compromise and flexibility necessary to secure an agreement and unlock both countries’ potential,” according to a State Department readout of the meeting.

National Security Advisor John Bolton indicated last year that the United States would support a deal between Serbia and Kosovo, including a potential deal that involves a territorial exchange between the two countries.

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