US official urges ending Kosovo trade taxes against Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A U.S. State Department official on Monday urged Kosovo to end taxes on Serbian goods so that European Union-mediated talks on resolving the dispute between the former war foes could resume.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer said at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that full normalization of relations between Serbia and its former province is "essential" for the future of Western Balkans.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 which Serbia does not recognize. The EU-mediated dialogue has stalled after Kosovo introduced a 100% tariff on all goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia last year.

Palmer said the tariffs present an "obstacle" for the dialogue and should be "lifted or suspended in such a way that would allow for the parties to return to the negotiating table."

Kosovo officials have repeatedly rejected calls by U.S. and EU officials for the lifting of taxes.

Serbia, which has the support of Russia, wants a compromise agreement with Kosovo. Kosovo, supported by the U.S., insists on full recognition of its statehood as the end result of the talks.

The Serbian president said he told Palmer that only a solution that takes into account the interests of both Kosovo Albanians and Serbs could end the long-standing dispute.

Vucic has never specified details of his "compromise" plan, but other Serb officials have hinted it would include taking over a northern part of Kosovo where Serbs comprise 90 percent of the population, in exchange for recognizing Kosovo's independence.

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