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article imageUS calls on Kosovo to suspend Serbia tariff

By AFP     Jan 25, 2019 in World

The United States urged Kosovo on Friday to immediately suspend a 100 percent tariff on imported Serbian goods, warning otherwise it would suffer "consequences" in its ties with Washington.

Kosovo slapped the massive import tax on Serbian goods in November in retaliation for what it called Belgrade's attempts to undermine its statehood.

Serbia has never recognised the independence of its former province proclaimed in 2008, a decade after a guerilla war.

Belgrade has been lobbying against international recognition of its former southern province.

Both the European Union and the US have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff measure that has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.

"We reiterate our view that an immediate suspension of the tariff on imports from Serbia ... is one necessary measure to restore momentum to the dialogue process" between the two sides, the US embassy in Pristina said in a statement.

It warned against "assuming that Kosovo or any other friend of the United States can take actions that run counter to our strategic interests without facing consequences to our bilateral relationship."

The US is a core ally of Kosovo backing its independence.

But Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has for now refused to suspend the tariff.

Haradinaj said in an interview with AFP Friday that he had delayed a visit to the US over the tariff, which he said was imposed to respond to what he labelled the "arrogance" and "cynicism" of Serbian officials.

Haradinaj, who had previously insisted the tariff would remain until Belgrade recognises Kosovo's independence, seems however to have softened his stance.

"We are ready to remove (the tariff) today, or tomorrow, any day" if the aim of the talks between Kosovo and Serbia is the recognition of Pristina's independence, he said.

Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU-led negotiations to normalise their ties since 2011, but recognition of Kosovo has not been one of the explicit conditions for the final deal.

Haradinaj said he was willing to give the negotiation process a chance, but added "if Serbia says 'We will never recognise you' my answer is 'We will never remove'" the tariff.

The 1998-1999 war between Serbian forces and Kosovo ethnic Albanian guerilla fighters claimed around 13,000 lives.

Pristina says it is recognised by more than 110 states and disputes Belgrade's claims to have recently swayed a dozen countries to reverse their decision.

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