PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The United States on Tuesday reassured Kosovars that it wouldn't support the creation of a Serb-majority ministate in Kosovo — like one in Bosnia — as Washington attempts to convince the country to accept a controversial association.
The U.S. Embassy in Pristina met with a group of civil society leaders, government officials and political leaders to discuss the Association of the Serb-Majority Municipalities, or ASM.
“We do not support any arrangement that violates Kosovo’s Constitution,” U.S. Ambassador Jeff Hovenier said after the meeting. “We strictly oppose the creation of any entity resembling Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
The ASM's aim is to coordinate the work of Serb-dominated municipalities on education, health care, urban and rural planning and local economic development.
Pristina has been reluctant to accept the creation of the ASM, fearing that it could lead to the creation of a ministate — like Republika Srpska in multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The ambassador urged Pristina “to provide its own vision for an ASM that it believes protects Kosovo’s future as a sovereign, independent, multiethnic, democratic state and that provides for minority rights.”
“This is critical, important, and urgent,” he added, also offering “expertise and political support to ensure that it works in the best interest of all Kosovans.”
On Monday, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet and Gabriel Escobar, special envoy for the Western Balkans, published an op-ed as part of U.S. and European Union efforts to promote “a healthy, peaceful, and sustainable relationship between Serbia and Kosovo.”
U.S. and EU envoys have visited Pristina and Belgrade over the past few weeks to encourage both sides to accept a new proposal for the two countries to normalize relations and boost their EU accession bids.
The proposal’s details haven't yet been made public.
A few hundred Kosovo Albanians held a demonstration against the association.
“We are neither against the Serbs, nor the international community, but we are against the association, which would not allow Kosovo’s development,” protester Rudi Berisha said.
The ASM’s establishment was agreed on in Brussels in 2013, and the details in another agreement in 2015, and approved in the Kosovo parliament. But Kosovo’s Constitutional Court later deemed it unconstitutional, because it wasn't inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail executive powers.
An EU-mediated Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has been ongoing since 2011, but few of the 33 signed agreements have been implemented.
The dispute between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo has remained a source of instability in the Balkans long after the 1998-99 war, which ended with a NATO intervention that forced Serbia to pull out of the territory.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, which Belgrade has refused to recognize, supported by Russia and China. The U.S. and most EU nations have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign nation.