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article imageUS pushes Kosovo, Serbia to normalize ties

By AFP     Feb 7, 2018 in World

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday urged Kosovo and Serbia to move toward normalizing ties, telling the UN Security Council that the time had come for a lasting peace.

The appeal came as Kosovo prepares to celebrate on February 17 the 10th anniversary of its independence, won with key backing from the United States after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

"In the strongest terms, we urge the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to take this opportunity," said Haley, a leading voice on foreign policy in the administration of President Donald Trump.

"The coming months are crucial. The stage is set. The benefits are clear.

"All that is needed is the political will to come together to create a just and lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia."

Haley said that the investigation of the murder last month of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was shaping up as a test of relations between Pristina and Belgrade.

"The world will be watching to see if this investigation results in accountability for those responsible," she said.

Ivanovic was killed in a drive-by shooting in Mitrovica on January 16, on the very day that representatives from Serbia and Kosovo resumed talks under European Union auspices after a break of more than year.

In an interview with AFP this month, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said he hopes to strike a historic deal with Serbia in 2018, which could open up prospects for Kosovo's membership in the European Union and NATO.

Haley said the United States backs the EU push for a normalization of ties.

As the number one financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, the United States is keen to cut costs and seek exit strategies for long-running missions, such as the one in Kosovo, set up in 1999.

"The time has come for the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to do what the mission cannot do, to do what the mission was never intended to do," said Haley, urging the two sides to reach a deal.

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