Trump Gave Grenell Full Mandate to Clinch a Quick Deal on Kosovo

Jasmina Kuzmanovic

(Bloomberg) -- The new U.S. envoy for Kosovo was given a full mandate by President Donald Trump to achieve an agreement between Pristina and neighbor Serbia as soon as possible, according to an official close to Kosovo President Hashim Thaci who did not want to be named.

Richard Grenell, who’s also the U.S. ambassador to Berlin, spoke with Thaci in Pristina on Wednesday, along with other officials following weekend snap elections.

According to the official, Grenell said the dispute between the two neighbors was an urgent case that needed to be resolved within months. The two sides broke off talks last year to mend ties severed after a 1998-1999 war and Kosovo’s later declaration of independence.

Grenell also met Kosovo election winner Albin Kurti and outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who Kurti is expected to replace. The ambassador gave no details on how a potential agreement might look, the official said. The idea of a land swap was floated in the past but faces stiff opposition from nationalists on both sides, and the European Union.

Grenell will travel to Serbia on Thursday, where he will meet President Aleksandar Vucic.

The U.S. envoy’s trip could mark a change of tack, with the EU for years taking the lead in mediating discussions between the former wartime foes.

The neighbors looked to be nearing a potential rapprochement when Vucic and Thaci suggested allowing each side to integrate areas populated by their ethnic kin. But the talks collapsed when Serbia successfully lobbied against Kosovo’s efforts to join the Interpol international police force, triggering a retaliatory import tax that escalated tensions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Michael Winfrey, Flavia Krause-Jackson

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