Belgrade ‘Should Offer Kosovo Direct Talks’

AFP 2016/ ATTILA KISBENEDEK

BELGRADE – Belgrade should stop negotiating the normalization of relations with Pristina using Brussels as a go-between; instead, direct talks are needed, Steven Meyer, former CIA Deputy Director of the Interagency Balkan Task Force, told Sputnik.

In an interview with Sputnik Serbian, Steven Meyer, former CIA Deputy Director of the Interagency Balkan Task Force, called for direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the normalization of bilateral ties; the EU-mediated negotiations currently underway between the country and its breakaway region should be halted, according to him.

The interview came after Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic accused Kosovo of “wanting war” after a Serbian train was halted before entering Kosovo due to reports that it was the target of a planned attack late last week.

Kosovo, which has a majority population of ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a bloody war and NATO intervention.

However, Serbia has never recognized Kosovo’s independence and considers the region part of its territory; Belgrade supports the Serb minority living in Kosovo.

Commenting on the matter, Meyer said that as far as the entire Balkans region is concerned, the best solution is to convene an international conference to deal with the boundaries of the Balkan states.

“This should be done under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, and the US and the EU should stay out of this process. The leaders of the Balkan states should cooperate more on the issue of borders, which in many places remain unstable,” Meyer said.

Touching upon Serbia, he said that its interests “were ignored in many areas due to the fact that the West claims that it is Serbia and Republika Srpska that are allegedly responsible for the wars [in the Balkans] in the 1990s.”

“Most Western leaders did not realize the fact that these were civil wars [in which] each republic [of the former Yugoslavia] played a role. And more importantly, the West, especially the US, has never understood the importance of ethnicity in Balkan politics. Washington believed that ethnicity can be overcome by force and by means of supervision. However, it has never worked,” Meyer said.

He added that he thinks Belgrade should stop participating in the negotiations in Brussels because “this is a road to nowhere.”

“The UN is a good opportunity but first of all, Belgrade should offer Pristina direct talks even though the proposal will most likely be rejected. But I think that it’s never too late to split up Kosovo, and that the main line of separation could be in place along the Ibar River,” he said.

In this vein, Meyer called for “reliable protection” of the Serb minority as well as shrines and historic sites located to the south of the Ibar River.

“The UN should add to clinching an agreement on extraterritorial rights. In addition, Serbia should start negotiations with the Republic of Srpska on the close alliance, perhaps, the establishment of the federation or even a union,” he added.

Meyer said that the neighboring state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is comprised of both the Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is “a fiction, which was created by the West for its own benefit.”

“This country has nothing to do with the interests of the major ethnic groups in the region,” he said, adding that “the question of ethnicity is becoming a more serious and dangerous problem” which is why the Balkan leaders must reach a consensus on the matter as soon as possible.

Asked about the possibility of Washington reviewing its policy in the Balkans under Trump, Meyer suggested that the Trump Administration may start developing closer ties with Serbia but that the Balkans will not be the focus of Trump’s policy priorities.

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