The Trump administration is working to score what it hopes to be another foreign policy win, this time by encouraging leaders from Serbia and Kosovo to sign a peace agreement in a ceremony that could take place at the White House.
A source confirmed to Fox News a report that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci recently traveled to Germany and met with U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell to discuss a deal that would lower tariffs on Serb goods, and in general lead to a lessening of tensions. Problems between Kosovo and Serbia – a longtime issue - have recently become so tense that some fear armed conflict may break out.
"President Trump gave both Kosovo and Serbia a clear path towards getting greater U.S. support," a U.S. official told Fox News. "He wants them to come up with a mutually agreed upon solution. As long as they both agree, then he will support it. Unlike the European position, everything is on the table for the U.S.
Uneasy relations between Serbia and its former province have simmered since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nine years after a NATO-led military campaign led drove the Serbs from Kosovo. The NATO action came after a Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovars to neighboring countries, and threatened to engulf the states of the foreign Yugoslavia into war.
Thaci’s meeting with Grenell, who as a former spokesperson for the U.S. delegation to the U.N. and foreign policy expert is intimately familiar with the Kosovo-Serb situation, helped raise the profile of the issue. Grennell is regarded a Trump confidante in Europe who has very effective access to the White House.
Trump recently sent letters to both Thaci and Serb President Aleksandar Vucic, asking they accelerate negotiations in an effort to resolve their impasse. As first reported in the Washington Post, Thaci and Vucic published their versions of the Trump letter online.
“Failure to capitalize on this unique opportunity would be a tragic setback, as another chance for a comprehensive peace is unlikely to occur again soon,” Trump wrote to the Kosovar leader.
In a statement to the Post, Grenell said he and Thaci “spoke about the importance of making long-term decisions instead of reacting in the short term. I was pleased that he agreed, and committed to work to end the tariffs that were recently imposed on Serbian products,” Grenell said in a statement to The Post. “This move would help send the right signals that he is serious about negotiating and help build trust between the parties.”
Bringing the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia together for a White House ceremony would be seen as a major accomplishment. The deep-seated animosity between the Serbs and Kosovars, who are ethnic Albanians and are predominately Muslim, stretches back centuries.
One expert welcomed the increased U.S. attention on the Kosovo-Serbia issue, particularly in the context of the larger Balkans framework.
"The rising tensions between Serbia and Kosovo -- and the way in which Serbia and Russia are working together to foment instability in neighboring Bosnia - pose a real threat to regional peace," said Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and advisor to Foreign Policy for America.
"Obviously, offering the White House as a setting is offering a big carrot, but if the administration can use that carrot to achieve a genuine peace between Serbia and Kosovo, including recognition of Kosovo by Belgrade, that would be a significant step forward."