Kosovo PM: Serb goods tax should not be linked to talks

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo's prime minister on Thursday insisted that talks on normalizing relations with Serbia should continue and should not be linked to Kosovo's tax on Serb goods.

Ramush Haradinaj pointed out that Kosovo didn't halt talks with Serbia when Belgrade prevented it from joining Interpol last year.

"The tax is Kosovo's sovereign decision. It was not set against the dialogue," Haradinaj said.

"Serbia has taken a lot of decisions but none of them has served to push us not to go to the table of talks."

In November, Kosovo set a 100 percent import tariff on Serb and Bosnian goods, saying it would only be lifted when Belgrade recognizes its sovereignty and stops preventing it from joining international organizations.

The European Union-facilitated dialogue, which started in 2011, has stalled, with Belgrade saying it won't take part until the tariff is lifted. Serbia does not accept the 2008 declaration of independence by its former territory.

Serbia says the Kosovo move has caused serious damage to its businesses.

In a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic reiterated that Belgrade will not resume talks before Kosovo revokes the taxes. He said the levy amounted to a "burden and an insurmountable obstacle for the continuation of the dialogue."

"I would like to stress once more: the moment Pristina abolishes that unreasonable and damaging measure, we will be ready to continue dialogue in search for a lasting and sustainable solution," Vucic wrote.

The European Union has said that normalization of their bilateral ties is a precondition for further integration of both countries into the bloc.

Both the EU and the United States have urged Kosovo to revoke the tariff.


Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania; Jovana Gec from Belgrade, Serbia.


Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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