Meetings in Ohrid, Escobar: I do not anticipate signings, but the door should be opened for negotiating progress

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Gabriel Escobar, the US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, urged the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to be productive and flexible in advance of their meeting on March 18 in Ohrid.

During a conference in Belgrade, following a meeting with President Aleksandar Vucic, Escobar praised the European plan as the best chance to ensure regional peace.

“The European proposal for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is one of the best opportunities to advance the area and establish peaceful conditions for all of its inhabitants. We anticipate that the two leaders will be able to listen to one another, work to make this agreement a reality, consider barriers and seek solutions, and leave the meeting with the knowledge that they will continue to work until a solution is found “Escobar added.

He highlighted that this is a normalization deal, not a recognition agreement, but reiterated the American position that Kosovo is a sovereign, independent state with territorial integrity.

According to Escobar, the advantages of this deal include rapid economic integration, not only for Kosovo and Serbia, but also for the entire region. He underlined the formation of an association and urged Kosovo to select one of the models presented by Miroslav Laják, the EU Special Envoy.

“The Association is a component of the Brussels Agreement, thus it will be achieved. The only question is its speed of occurrence. The second component is the applied model. The EU Special Envoy provided various examples of how this sort of Association works in the EU to grant minority the right to self-government without affecting functionality, without provoking tension, and while bringing nations closer together. We want one of these models to serve as a template for the community of Serbian-majority towns.”

The US special envoy stated that he does not anticipate signatures during the Ohrid meeting, but highlighted that the door must be opened for further development. He declined to comment, however, on what would occur if Ohrid fails to yield results.