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Serbia to resume talks with Kosovo if import tax is suspended - Vucic

Author Radomir Ralev
Serbia to resume talks with Kosovo if import tax is suspended - Vucic Aleksandar Vucic; Source: Serbia's President's Office

BELGRADE (Serbia), January 31 (SeeNews) – Serbia is ready to resume the talks for the normalisation of relations with Kosovo when Pristina abolishes the import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday in a letter to U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

"I emphasise once again: the moment Pristina abolishes this unreasonable and harmful measure, we are ready to continue the dialogue in search of a lasting and sustainable solution," Vucic said in a letter to Trump posted on the website of the Serbian President's Office.

The import tax damages the Serbian economy, but also endangers the life of Serbs in Kosovo, whose rights should be protected, Vucic said in the letter dated January 31.

In a separate statement issued on Wednesday, the Serbian President's Office said that Wess Mitchell, U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs,  has told Vucic in a phone conversation that the U.S. expects Kosovo to suspend the import tax and create conditions for the continuation of normalisation talks.

On November 21, Kosovo's government said it has decided to raise the import tax on all goods produced in Serbia and Bosnia to 100% from 10% set earlier that month in order to protect Kosovo’s sovereignty and interests.

The decision immediately drew fire from the European Union. "It further exacerbates the situation following the initial imposition of 10% tax increase last week. The Kosovo government has to immediately revoke these decisions," the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said.

Earlier this week, Kosovo's prime minister Ramush Haradinaj said Pristina will suspend the import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia if the U.S. and the EU initiate and support an international conference for concluding a legally binding agreement with Belgrade.

Kosovo will scrap tariffs if Serbia removes all non-tariff barriers imposed on the movement of goods from Kosovo as well as all unlawful restrictions on trade in services and movements of people from Kosovo to Serbia, Haradinaj stressed. He added that the Serbian president, prime minister or foreign minister should publicly confirm that all policies and actions of any nature directed against the aspirations of Kosovo as a sovereign state will be suspended permanently.

Kosovo, considered to be a potential candidate for EU membership by the European Commission, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has so far has been recognised by more than half of the 193 UN member states. It is the only country in the Western Balkans whose citizens need visas to travel to EU member states.