Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize economic ties, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday, calling the agreement a “real breakthrough” that would help the two Balkan countries prosper after decades of war and failed negotiations.
Both countries—parts of the former Yugoslavia—agreed to freeze talks about normalizing political ties for a year to allow the economic agreement to take root, U.S. officials said, according to Reuters.
Serbia agreed to stop for one year its campaign to persuade other countries to “derecognize” Kosovo and Kosovo agreed to stop for one year its efforts to join international organizations, according to Balkan Insight.
“These were difficult talks for us, but Im truly satisfied,” Serbias President Aleksandar Vučić told Serbian reporters in Washington.
He stressed that the economic agreement does not include “mutual recognition” between Serbia and Kosovo. But he hailed the talks as a big victory for Serbia and a step toward closer ties with the U.S. Despite officially seeking membership in the European Union, Serbia has been forging close political, economic, and military ties with Russia and China.
Kosovos Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Most Western nations have recognized Kosovos independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China have not. The ongoing deadlock and Serbias unwillingness to recognize Kosovo have kept tensions simmering and prevented the full stabilization of the Balkan region after the bloody wars in the 1990s.
In addition, Kosovo and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic relations. Serbia has committed to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July and open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month, Trump said. The move will make Serbia the first European country opening an embassy in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the moves and said Israel would establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo, according to the Times of Israel.
“Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said
Both Serbia and Kosovo also agreed to designate Hezbollah—a Lebanese Shia militia—as a terrorist organization and keep their 5G communication networks clean by excluding equipment from untrusted vendors from them, reported Balkan Insight.
Trump also praised Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti for “tremendous bravery” to “embark on these talks and to come to Washington to finalize these commitments.”
Trump said that have made safer not only their countries but also the Balkans, and the world.