By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia will meet at the White House on September 4, after a similar meeting was canceled in June following the indictment of Kosovar President Hashim Thaci for war crimes.
White House national-security adviser Robert O’Brien will host the talks with U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo negotiations, Richard Grenell.
Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed in August that they would meet at the White House on September 2 after Grenell announced the meeting. The talks were then postponed by two days due a scheduling conflict.
“The United States looks forward to these important discussions with President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti,” U.S. National-Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service on August 22. “We believe progress on economic issues, including job creation and accelerating economic growth, is the first step in advancing the peace process.”
Earlier on August 22, Vucic told Serbian TV Prva that U.S. President Donald Trump may join the talks if there is some sort of agreement with the Kosovo side.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade.
Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the European Union, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.
Washington stepped up its involvement in Serbia-Kosovo negotiations last year in a process that runs parallel to nearly a decade of EU-mediated normalization efforts.
The EU-brokered talks have produced multiple agreements seeking to normalize relations in the region, although many of them have not been implemented.
In July, Vucic and Hoti held their first face-to-face negotiations in 20 months under a EU-mediated dialogue process. At those talks, the two sides focused on issues of missing and displaced persons as well as economic cooperation.
The EU is expected to host Hoti and Vucic again in September.
Washington had initially sought to bring the two former foes face-to-face at the White House on June 27.
But those plans were canceled followed Thaci’s indictment at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during or after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
Thaci has denied involvement in any war crimes and has been cooperating with the investigation.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague is currently reviewing the indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.