Lajcak and Escobar urge Vucic to influence Serbs to participate in elections without preconditions

FOTO: Tanjug/Strahinja Aćimović

During the U.S. Special Envoy for the Western Balkan, Gabriel Escobar’s, and the European mediator for the Western Balkans and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak’s visit to the Serbian capital, an important request was made to President Vucic of Serbia.

Apart from urging the Serbian president to contribute to the urgent de-escalation of the crisis, a more significant demand was made: to convince Serbs in Kosovo to return to institutions and participate in elections, ideally without preconditions.

Gabriel Escobar expressed his reluctance to wait until July for the elections to take place, while still making room for the possibility of a later term.

Additionally, the EU and the U.S. want the Ohrid Agreement to be fully implemented by the end of this year. These statements were made during the press conference held by Escobar earlier today in Belgrade.

„The United States is committed to helping Serbia and Kosovo resolve this crisis in a mutually beneficial way and move forward towards a common regional agenda that benefits the people of the Western Balkans and those who live here, towards a shared European path. There is a lot of potential in this region. We must not lose sight of this fact and we must not stop working to make the Western Balkans the fastest and most dynamic part of Europe and a real contributor to regional stability,“ emphasized Escobar.

However, he stated that his visit to Belgrade was not solely focused on the crisis but also aimed at deepening bilateral relations with Serbia.

„My visit is not only about the crisis. We have very deep relations with Serbia. There is a very positive development in these relations. We are very interested in the development and deepening of our bilateral relations with Serbia, very interested in all the opportunities that our relationship can bring in terms of education, science, sports, and especially business,“ Escobar stated.

He also mentioned that a visit by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce to Washington is being organized soon, specifically to further deepen bilateral relations.

„There is a lot between the U.S. and Serbia and the rest of the region, apart from the crisis, but I had to emphasize that clearly because sometimes that aspect is overseen in all of this,“ emphasized the American diplomat.

The U.S. Special Envoy and the European mediator arrived in Belgrade from Pristina last night without a positive response from the Kosovan Prime Minister to repeated international demands to urgently de-escalate the crisis in the north.

Now, they also made two requests for Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. First, for Serbia to contribute to the urgent de-escalation of the situation, and second, as Escobar acknowledged, a more challenging request:

„I really think the biggest challenge for Serbia is to convince Serbs in Kosovo to return to institutions. We stand by Serbia in this matter and want to ensure that those who participate in the elections and the Serbs who actually return to the institutions are welcome.“

President Vucic stated that he would use his influence to try to persuade Serbs to participate in the elections, as highlighted by Escobar.

Vucic earlier denied being the one who called on Serbs from the North to withdraw from almost all Kosovo institutions last November, as he emphasized in an interview with CNN last week when asked directly.

Still, prior to the elections, the statements made by him and his associates discouraged participation in the local elections scheduled for April 23rd without fulfilling the previous conditions set by the Serbs.

Escobar reiterated the demands of Kosovo’s international partners, which were also directly conveyed to the Kosovan Prime Minister during a meeting, regarding the urgent de-escalation of the crisis.

„This means that we hope that the mayors will not try to use those buildings and that the Kosovo police will withdraw from the buildings, but we also want to make sure that the protesters leave the area additionally. If there are new elections, and we hope there will be, we want Serbs to participate in them, without preconditions“.

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