Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic arrived in Washington on Thursday (July 26th), pledging that he would strive to reduce tensions over the Kosovo issue. His visit came just days after Kosovo Albanian representatives met with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who reiterated US support for granting sovereignty to the UN-run province.
The Serbian minister’s two-day trip included talks with US senators Richard Lugar and George Voinovich, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos. He also addressed the National Press Club.
On Friday, Jeremic met with Rice, telling reporters afterwards that major differences still exist. However, he added, Serbia and the United States both agree that the status solution should be conducive to lasting peace and security in the Balkans.
The United States wants the upcoming round of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina to last 120 days, while Serbia is against “artificial” deadlines, Jeremic said. Establishing a set timeframe would simply encourage one side to sit back and wait for the deadline to expire, he added.
“I fail to see any incentive whatsoever for the Albanian side to do anything during these 120 days,” he said.
One thing that Jeremic and Rice did not discuss was when the negotiations should begin, although they concurred that should be as soon as possible. “Belgrade is ready,” Jeremic said.
Immediately prior to Jeremic’s departure, the Serbian Parliament adopted a new resolution authorising the cabinet to take unspecified action against any country that recognises Kosovo as independent. Possible actions include breaking off diplomatic ties.
The move could exacerbate reported divisions among EU members about how to handle Kosovo status if the UN Security Council proves unable to resolve the issue.
“There are a growing number of countries who realise that the cost of imposing a solution outside the Security Council is high and are therefore starting to think about whether there could be a more optimal solution,” Jeremic told the AP ahead of his trip.
US leaders, however, have suggested Washington could extend recognition to Kosovo unilaterally if the diplomatic process collapses.
During her meeting last week with the Kosovo Albanian delegation, which included Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku, Rice stressed that the United States does not want to see further delays.
“We arrived from Washington very optimistic that after 120 days will come independence,” Sejdiu said after the talks.
Ceku said the aim of the visit was to demonstrate Kosovo’s commitment to forming a state and to press for a speedier solution.
“We showed that Kosovo is ready for independence. We showed that we are ready to govern ourselves,” Ceku said. “We showed that we are ready to assume all competencies from UNMIK and finally we showed that Kosovo’s people still believe in the United States.”