US brokers consider flights between Serbia and Kosovo

BERLIN – American diplomats on Monday oversaw the signing of an agreement between Serbia, Kosovo and German airline Lufthansa on the resumption of commercial flights intended to improve economic ties between the Balkan countries.

Serbia and Kosovo remained concerned neighbors since their 1998-99 war which claimed the lives of over 10,000 people and left over a million homeless.

Serbia continues to regard Kosovo as part of its territory, although its independence has been recognized by around 100 countries, including the United States.

US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien said the “letter of intent” signed in Berlin between representatives of the two countries marked a “historic deal,” calling commercial air links a “cornerstone. of a modern economy ”.

O’Brien said there had been no commercial flights between Kosovo and Serbia for 21 years. Currently, it takes more than five hours to travel from Belgrade to Pristina by land.

The agreement was signed by Milun Trivunac, Secretary of State of the Serbian Ministry of Economy, and Eset Berisha, Director General of the Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority, at the United States Embassy in Berlin. US Ambassador Richard Grenell is also President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci hailed the deal, saying it was “an important step for the movement of citizens and the normalization process”.

The 25-minute flight between Belgrade and Pristina will be operated by Lufthansa’s low-cost carrier Eurowings, which already has a plane stationed in the Kosovo capital.

Michael Knitter, the chief operating officer of Eurowings, said the flights could begin as soon as new regulatory hurdles are lifted by the two countries.

However, it is not known how soon this could happen. Belgrade has in the past asked Pristina to remove a 100% tax on Serbian goods before flights resume.

“Serbia has shown a clear determination to strengthen the free movement of goods, people and capital against artificially imposed barriers and limitations,” Serbian Economy Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The Associated Press

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