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Land swap and recognition should be on the table: Message from the US Foreign Affairs Council

If annexing northern Kosovo gives the Serbian government and people the feeling that they have "saved face" enough to recognize Kosovo's independence - then I think it must be done because it is a step towards long-term stability and peace in the Balkan peninsula, Kupchan stressed

A land swap between Serbia and the so-called Kosovo should be on the negotiating table, and at the end of that process Belgrade would have to recognize Pristina, Charles Kupchan, US Foreign Affairs Council member and Georgetown University professor, has told Radio Free Europe.

"I don't think that it is politically or morally more embarrassing than separating Kosovo from Serbia, which was also a redrawing of borders along ethnic lines. It is very difficult for Kosovo to move forward and function as a democratic country when one part of it does not want to belong to that state," Kupchan said.

He added that at the end of the process, Serbia would have to recognize the so-called Kosovo.

"Serbia needs to pull itself away from the past and the tendency towards historical complaints. For this reason, I believe that an exchange of territory should be on the negotiating table. If annexing northern Kosovo gives the Serbian government and people the feeling that they have 'saved face' enough to recognize Kosovo's independence - then I think it must be done because it is a step towards long-term stability and peace in the Balkan peninsula," Kupchan said.

He believes there had been some signs of progress during the talks between Vucic (president of Serbia) and Thaci (president of the so-called Kosovo) - above all when it comes to an exchange of territory by annexing a part of northern Kosovo to Serbia in exchange for a part of the Presevo valley.

Aleksandar Vucic, Hasim Taci

Photo: European Forum Alpbach/Andrei Pungovschi

However, he added, the idea was suppressed partly because of the opposition from Prime Minister Haradinaj (outgoing prime minister of the so-called Kosovo), and from Germany and other European centers.

"Now, in a situation where there is no progress, that is, no 'wind in the sails' because of Serbia's reaction to the customs introduced by Kosovo - I believe that the exchange of territory should be on the table. Namely, if it can pave the way for normalization of Serbia-Kosovo relations, despite some risk to the region due to the insistence of others to redraw borders along ethnic lines, then this proposal provides at least one more option to get out of the deadlock," he says.

Kupchan doesn't think it is politically or morally more embarrassing than separating Kosovo from Serbia, which was also a redrawing of borders along ethnic lines.

"Of course, this would require the consent of the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, and this is not a given, especially from the Kosovo side. However, the EU and the US should continue to insist on the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina talks, because normalization of relations is necessary, and Kosovo, which is de facto independent, should become that also de jure in order to achieve lasting peace in the Balkan peninsula," he said.

He reiterated that the positive effect of normalization of relations between Serbia and the so-called Kosovo urges forward movement, regardless of the possible risks that such a solution may pose in Bosnia and Herzegovina and perhaps Macedonia due to tensions between Macedonians and Albanians.

"In the case of Kosovo and Serbia, this tolerance of deviation from the standard norms would contribute to greater stability," Kupchan said, adding that in the case of Bosnia, a secession of Republika Srpska would have a destabilizing effect.

"That is why the international community should strongly oppose this option," Kupchan said.

Stating that he is not sure there is a clear US government stance on land swap, and that many US diplomats are opposed to this solution - so it is difficult to say what the official US policy is on this issue - but that if customs were abolished and dialogue started, the US could become more directly involved in the effort to reach an agreement.

"So, I'm skeptical that Trump's team will be more directly engaged and take the lead on this issue because he doesn't see it as a priority. This means that the ball is still in the European yard," Kupchan concluded.

Telegraf.rs/Fonet)

Tags: Belgrade, Kosovo, Kosovo and Metohija, land swap, Priština, Serbia
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