The presidents of the United States and Serbia welcomed the possible resumption of Belgrade-Priština flights with Donald Trump hailing it as another victory and Aleksandar Vučić saying a compromise had been reached.
Officials from Belgrade and Priština signed a letter of intent with the German airline Lufthansa to resume flights between Belgrade and Priština. Lufthansa’s Eurowings airline will fly the line once full agreement is reached to resume them. Serbian government official Marko Djuric, who heads the Office for Kosovo, said before the ceremony at the US embassy in Berlin that the flights can resume once Priština revokes the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and the Belgrade-Priština dialogue resumes.
“Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But for the first time in a generation, there will be direct flights between Serbia and Kosovo. Another win,” the American president wrote on his Twitter profile. He thanked his special envoy the US Ambassador in Germany Richard Grenell and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But for the first time in a generation, there will be direct flights between Serbia and Kosovo. Another win. Thanks to @WHNSC Ambassador Robert O’Brien and Ambassador @RichardGrenell! pic.twitter.com/0qSLryG96B
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2020
President Vučić also thanked the two American diplomats. “We are grateful to Ambassador Richard Grenell and US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien for their critical role in helping to establish direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina. Serbia is ready to pursue more such initiatives, bringing people in the Balkans closer together,” Vučić Tweeted.
We are grateful to Amb. @RichardGrenell and U.S. National Security Advisor @robertcobrien for their critical role in helping to establish direct flights between Belgrade/Pristina. Serbia is ready to pursue more such initiatives, bringing people in the Balkans closer together.
— Александар Вучић (@predsednikrs) January 20, 2020
Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Vucic said the deal with Lufthansa is important for Serbia. “We did the best we could to confirm what we advocate, the free flow of goods, capital, people and services on one hand and on the other to protect the integrity of the territory of Serbia and find a compromise solution which no one can say was our recognition of Kosovo,” he said.
Vucic said that Air Serbia could not take over the Belgrade-Pristina line. “The Albanians want Air Serbia more than anyone else but Air Serbia would have to sign documents with the state of Kosovo,” he explained adding that this would mean that the lower section of the air space over Kosovo is no longer under Serbia’s control.
Balkans expert, Johns Hopkins University Professor Daniel Serwer said that the agreement to resume flights gives hope that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will be resumed. He said that Belgrade and Pristina will return to the negotiating table once Kosovo gets a new government but warned of new problems once the election campaign starts in Serbia. Serwer recalled that the dialogue is a process which is underway with European Union mediation and occasional American involvement, adding that he isn’t sure that this kind of interaction will give the best results.