Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told officials in Washington that the Western Balkans still needs the strong focus and presence of the US and the EU.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 09/04/12
Although he did not meet with US President Barack Obama, analysts say Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's visit to Washington last week would help keep the US involved in discussions with Serbia. [Reuters]
Analysts in Kosovo believe that Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's visit to the US last week was an important step to keep the US involved in helping to smooth tensions with Serbia, and to maintain Kosovo's EU integration track.
Thaci visited Washington to discuss Kosovo's role in the Balkans. He met on Wednesday (April 4th) with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and on Thursday with US Vice President Joe Biden.
Thaci asked for the continuation of the US role not only in Kosovo, but in the whole Western Balkans.
"Prime Minister Thaci asked Vice President Biden that the US continue to play this decisive role and remain promoters of the integration processes for Kosovo to the Euro-Atlantic structures," the prime minister's office said in a statement.
In a statement, the White House said Biden reiterated US support for Kosovo's sovereignty, and congratulated Thaci on the progress in dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. "The United States strongly supports the dialogue and looks forward to the full implementation of agreements reached between Kosovo and Serbia, which will benefit the people of both countries."
After meeting with Clinton, Thaci said all countries in the region share the same goal and the same vision for the European integration and NATO membership.
"But to make that happen, we still need the strong focus and presence of the United States of America and EU, not only in Kosovo but also in the rest of the Western Balkans," he added.
Kosovo and Serbia recently agreed to a compromise that allows Kosovo to represent itself in regional talks by calling itself "Kosovo*" – the footnote indicates: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence."
The agreement was initially hailed as a breakthrough that also allowed Serbia to gain EU candidate status, but representatives of both countries, within days, walked out of meetings over disagreements about how Kosovo was being identified.
Serbia has also announced presidential, parliamentary and local elections for May 6th, which it says will include Kosovo. Pristina has threatened to stop the vote in its borders, by force if needed.
Ilir Ibrahimi, vice president and chief operating officer of the American University in Kosovo, said the US continues its interest in preserving Kosovo's territorial integrity.
"I think the issue of the north that should be solved from the Kosovo side, with the help of the international friends, and by ensuring the Serb citizens of the north all the rights foreseen in the constitution of the Republic of Kosovo," Ibrahimi told SETimes.
Ramadan Ilazi, co-founded of Kosovo "Fol" (Speak Up) Movement, said Kosovo politicians have always been sceptical of EU foreign policy, especially on its role as a mediator in the relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
"That's why Kosovo had insisted on a US role in the latest negotiations. The visit is about confirming the US support for Kosovo, the support for the agreements reached in the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and to encourage Thaci to continue this process," Ilazi told SETimes.
Ilazi said that situation in northern Kosovo is unstable and a new modus vivendi should be found, "which should be a process that leads to the incorporation of the parallel system in the North in the general system of the state of Kosovo as it has been done with the municipalities of Gracanica and Shtime."