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US, European countries urge restart of Serbia-Kosovo talks

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - The United States and four Western countries offered help Tuesday to Serbia and Kosovo to restart their European Union-sponsored talks aimed at normalizing ties between the former wartime foes.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the U.S. said in a joint statement that they “stand united in our aim to see the full normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia via a comprehensive, politically sustainable, and legally binding agreement that contributes to regional stability.”

A former Serbian province, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move that Belgrade and its ally Russia do not recognize. The U.S. and over 100 countries recognize Kosovo’s statehood following a NATO intervention in 1999 that stopped a Serbian crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists.

Talks between the two stalled last year over Kosovo’s decision to impose a 100% tax on goods from Serbia.

The statement urged Kosovo to lift the tariffs, but also asked Serbia to suspend “the de-recognition campaign against Kosovo.” Serbia has recently stepped up efforts - mostly among developing African countries - to suspend recognition of Kosovo’s statehood.

“The status quo prevents progress on Kosovo’s and Serbia’s path toward the European Union and is simply not sustainable,” the statement said, adding “We stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

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