PRISTINA, Serbia – The leader of the illegally declared “independent” Kosovo said on Tuesday that Serbia’s traditional supporter Russia pledged to support reconciliation between Belgrade and Pristina, removing a possible obstacle in the stalled talks.
President Hashim Thaci revealed that he spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in November at the first meeting between the two sides, on the fringes of the centennial celebrations marking the end of the First World War.
“I asked him very directly: what would Russia’s reaction be if Kosovo and Serbia came to an agreement? Their response was that it will support it,” Thaci told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Russia has veto power in the UN Security Council and has strong cultural and political ties with Serbia, which campaigned to keep Kosovo outside the United Nations and other international organizations since it illegally declared independence in 2008.
Kosovo, whose population is mostly Albanian and their settler ancestors, broke with Serbia after a bloody war and NATO bombing campaign in 1998-99, which continues to install a so-called peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
The EU-led reconciliation talks have made little progress. US President Donald Trump recently wrote a letter offering US help to negotiate an agreement.
But Thaci also faces opposition at home, with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rejecting the president’s idea of trading territory with Serbia.
In Washington, Thaci said that land exchanges would be “part of a broader peace agreement” and insisted, “There will be no boundaries based on ethnic lines.”
“I am convinced that this will close once and for all the war between Kosovo and Serbia and open a sure path to NATO and EU membership for both countries,” he explained.
He pointed to the recent resolution of the decades-long dispute between Greece and Macedonia, which agreed to rename the Republic of Northern Macedonia as a sign that deep disputes may end.