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Kosovo partially abolishes fees “big mistake” (US diplomat)

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — On Friday, the Kosovo Prime Minister faced criticism over his plan to partially raise fees for imported Serbian goods, as a US diplomat condemned the move, saying not to raise fees entirely “a big mistake.”

The West has been pressing Kosovo for months to remove the trade barrier that has poisoned already tense relations with Serbia, the former war enemy, since late 2018.

But the “half-measure” announced by Prime Minister Alpine Corti on Thursday was quickly criticized by the United States, Kosovo’s most important ally.

“Our position is very clear: the cartoons should be totally abolished,” said Richard Grinnell, the US envoy to Kosovo and Serbia, which Washington recently appointed as acting chief of national intelligence.

“Mr Corti is making a big mistake,” said Grignel, who is known for his sharp style.

Corti’s plan is to raise the fees first on raw materials and then cancel them entirely in April, but only if Serbia also shows goodwill.

However, Serbian President Alexander Vucic was apparently not satisfied and told reporters, “We will wait for them to cancel the fees (completely) and then talk.”

The fees of 100 percent represent a new source of hostility between the two neighbors in the Balkans, whose relations are still tense 20 years after Kosovo seceded in a war.

Serbia did not recognize the independence of Kosovo, which it declared in 2008, and strove to keep it outside international organizations, including the United Nations.

And among his conditions for the abolition of fees completely, he calls on Belgrade to stop its efforts to persuade other countries to refrain from recognizing Kosovo.

The issue divided the world, as most Western countries recognize the independence of Kosovo, unlike the two Serbian allies in Moscow and Beijing.

Corti also suffered a setback from allies and opponents at home.

And his other partner in the government coalition, the Democratic League of Kosovo, threatened to withdraw from the government in the event that the fees were not “canceled without conditions,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Houti for local media.

However, Corti received limited support from the European Union, which welcomed a “first step” towards the resumption of talks under the auspices of Brussels between Serbia and Kosovo, which stopped after the imposition of fees in late 2018.

Meanwhile, the United States is working on a different path, with Grinnell sponsoring land-building and railway agreements.

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