New Kosovo government lifts ban on Serbian imports

Kosovo’s new government said Saturday it was lifting a ban on Serbian imports, ending a potentially damaging trade spat and taking a step towards the resumption of talks between the rivals.

“We have taken an important decision to remove the obstacles to pursuing dialogue,” Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The decision came three days after the new government took charge.

Belgrade has rejected Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, and refused to resume EU-led negotiations launched in 2011 aimed at resolving tensions between the rivals.

“We are waiting for the Serbian side to also lift the barriers” to dialogue, Hoti said, referring to Belgrade’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Hoti’s predecessor Albin Kurti had launched a trade war with Serbia, despite pressure from the United States and the European Union not to do so.

He abolished a 100-percent tariff on Serbian imports on April 1, ending a blockade that had poisoned ties. However, he then announced a ban on all imports from former war foe Serbia that were not stamped “for the Republic of Kosovo”.

This measure was scrapped on Saturday by Kosovo’s new prime minister.

Kurti has accused Washington, and his top rival President Hashim Thaci, of working in tandem to remove him from power in order to push through a deal with Serbia — which both deny.