PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Kosovo’s government to continue a dialogue on normalizing ties with neighboring Serbia and said that any agreement between the two former war foes “should be centered on mutual recognition.”
Biden sent a letter to Kosovo’s new president, Vjosa Osmani, whose office made the communication public on Tuesday. In it, he said Washington would “continue to support efforts to secure a lasting peace through productive dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and ultimately a comprehensive normalization agreement, which we believe should be centered on mutual recognition.”
Biden called the normalization of relations with Serbia “essential for Kosovo to realize its potential and fully integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
“I know reaching that goal will require flexibility and difficult compromises along the way, and the Untied States will be your partner at every step,” the U.S president wrote.
The government that took office in Kosovo in March has said it is focused in fighting the pandemic and that talks with Serbia are not high on its list of immediate goals.
European Union-facilitated negotiations to normalize ties between Serbia and its former province started a decade ago and stalled last year.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a brutal 1998-1999 war between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign that drove Serb troops out, and a peacekeeping force moved in.
Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty, but Serbia and allies Russia and China don’t. Tensions over Kosovo remain a source of volatility in the Balkans.
In his letter to Osmani, Biden mentioned his family’s “personal connection” to Kosovo. The president’s late son Beau worked in Kosovo after the war with military forces and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to strengthen the rule of law there.
When he was vice president, Joe Biden visited Kosovo with his family in 2016 to attend a ceremony naming a road near a U.S. military base after his son, who had died of brain cancer the year before at age 46.
“My son Beau loved the time he spent in Kosovo working to advance peace and the rule of law,” Biden wrote.