International mediators intend to advance negotiations on Kosovo and Transdniestria at any cost
Recently, the situation in the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue has reached a deep impasse. The setback in communication between Belgrade and Pristina was so significant that it even led to the disruption of the next Balkan summit in Paris, scheduled for early July. Despite this, the main external players involved have not given up hope for the final normalization of Serbia-Kosovo relations.
Most recently, Washington, through its Ambassador in Pristina, Philip Kosnett, reaffirmed the importance of reaching a comprehensive agreement – this time financially. So, according to the diplomat, it will help to significantly modernize the economy of Kosovo and open up new economic horizons for the region, since the current state of the unresolved conflict, of course, does not contribute to an adequate perception of Kosovo by international investors. The Ambassador also said that with a final agreement with Serbia, Pristina would be able to use its geographical advantage and gain access to the European market.
The current ‘semi-legal’ status of Kosovo significantly hinders the growth in the region’s prosperity, which requires constant financial support from the outside. International mediators obviously hope that the settlement of the Serbia-Kosovo conflict will give a serious impetus to the socio-economic development of the region. That’s just the mood of the negotiating parties that is still very far from a compromise. This year has at all become one of the tensest in relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and disturbing news from the region comes regularly.
The current complicated situation seems to have forced the US to take drastic measures. At least this is evidenced by the sudden reset of the political system in Kosovo. One of its main objectives is to consolidate Pristina’s negotiating positions: recently, leadership of the republic has demonstrated different approaches to the final compromise with Belgrade and actually prevented international mediators from succeeding. As a result, after the unexpected summons to the Hague (on suspicion of committing war crimes), the current Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was forced to resign. A little later, the Presidium of the Kosovo Parliament decided on the early dissolution of parliament, scheduled for 22 August.
Elections are expected to take place in October, but the process of political reconstruction may last until the end of the year. This means that the next stage of negotiations with Serbia should not be expected before winter. So far, it is only clear that Kosovo will definitely keep its position – its independence should be recognized as a result of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Serbia is still on the wave of the much-hyped handover ceremony of ten Russian BRDM-2 (armoured reconnaissance and patrol vehicle of the second generation) to the Serbian army. Some bold statements are coming from Belgrade – from the need to concede Kosovo to Russia to the military scenario of the settlement of relations with Kosovo – against the background of support from Moscow.
In fact, all this is nothing more than artificially ‘inflated’ bravado, which has nothing to do with reality. According to open data, in 2014-2018 the number one donor of the Serbian army was the United States (no.2 – China), not Russia. Moreover, it is known that the official Belgrade, although declaring a policy of neutrality, in fact significantly increases cooperation with NATO. It is noteworthy that Serbia conducts about three joint military exercises a year with Russia, and ten times more with the North Atlantic Alliance. In this context, the pretentious patriotic rhetoric of Serbian politicians about the Kremlin’s readiness to strengthen the military factor in the Balkans seems nothing more than an attempt to balance and strengthen its difficult situation, in which Serbia finds itself at the final stage of the settlement of relations with Pristina. According to most experts, the developments indicate that the Serbian authorities have reached terminal state which makes the independence of Kosovo irreversible. It remains only to reconcile Belgrade to this idea – and this is what international mediators will do in the near future.
Many experts are looking forward to the Albanian OSCE Chairmanship in 2020, which, given the environment, is likely to place a special emphasis on the completion of the dialogue on a comprehensive settlement between Serbia and Kosovo. In addition, the focus will certainly be the problem of Transdniestria. The situation in the Transdniestrian settlement has much in common with the current state of negotiations on Kosovo. This year is clearly not a breakthrough in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol: due to the tough election campaign and the difficult creation of the ruling coalition, Chisinau had no time for Transdniestria.
Now, when the issues of the government formation are almost closed, Chisinau fundamentally intends to launch a political discussion on the final settlement of the Transdniestrian problem. This is partly due to the unprecedented activity of foreign mediators, primarily the OSCE. Representatives of the organization conduct intensive shuttle diplomacy at quite high level, which has already led to a kind of ‘unfreezing’ of the negotiation process. After a long impasse, meetings of political representatives and experts of Tiraspol and Chisinau began, and the leader of the region Vadim Krasnoselsky publicly called for further dialogue with Moldova.
The marked acceleration of the processes around Kosovo and Transdniestria reveals the intention of the international mediators to direct the settlement of both conflicts to the final point. External players are losing patience and, if necessary, will use tough methods of coercion to the most obstinate negotiators. Both Chisinau with Belgrade, and Tiraspol with Pristina better prepare their negotiating positions – 2020 promises to be very ‘hot’ for them, and therefore for the whole of Europe.
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