Deal on exchange of territory could pave way for settlement between Belgrade and Pristina
A US-backed land-swap plan to redraw the borders of Kosovo is facing a growing chorus of criticism inside the republic, in the wider region and internationally.
The Kosovan president, Hashim Thai, and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vui, have suggested an exchange of territory could be part of a deal that would pave the way for a final settlement between Belgrade and Pristina.
Kosovo broke from Serbia in 1999, and declared its independence in 2008, which Belgrade has never recognised. Vui and Thai have met regularly under the auspices of the EUs foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, to hammer out a deal that could put Kosovo on the path to a seat at the UN and improve EU accession prospects for both countries.
While neither Vui nor Thai has made the detail of their plans public yet, both acknowledged at a discussion forum in Austria last weekend that border changes were under consideration. A swap would probably involve exchanging territory in southern Serbia, predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians, for part of northern Kosovo with a largely ethnic Serbian population.
The US administration recently gave a boost to the plans when the national security adviser, John Bolton, said Washington would not stand in the way if Belgrade and Pristina reached a deal, reversing a long-held US policy that further border changes in the Balkans are undesirable.
According to two sources familiar with Trump administrations thinking, the new policy is no red lines but no blank cheques, meaning the US is willing to look at any solution, including border changes, but will not necessarily endorse it in the end. Some EU officials have hinted they may also be willing to back a deal that involves border changes.
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