The United States is open to an exchange of territory between Kosovo and Serbia as part of a deal to normalize relations between the two former wartime foes, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Friday.
The Trump administration’s position puts it at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week stated her opposition to any changes to Balkan borders.
Western powers have long rejected changes to borders in the Balkans, believing they would unleash demands from other nations for boundaries to be redrawn and could reignite the ethnic violence that consumed the region in the 1990s.
But officials from Kosovo and Serbia have floated the idea of a land swap in recent weeks, suggesting it could unlock a final settlement between the two sides. Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian, declared independence in 2008 but Belgrade regards the territory as a rebel province.
The most often-discussed land swap would see part of northern Kosovo recognized as part of Serbia while the Preševo Valley area of southern Serbia would become part of Kosovo.
“I think there are new signs that both governments very quietly may be willing to negotiate on this,” Bolton said at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Radio Free Europe reported. “Our policy, the U.S. policy, is that if the two parties can work it out between themselves and reach agreement, we don’t exclude territorial adjustments. It’s really not for us to say.
“We would not stand in the way, and I don’t think anybody in Europe would stand in the way if the two parties to the dispute reached a mutually satisfactory settlement,” Bolton said.
Since talk of a land swap surfaced, EU officials have avoided taking a position on the issue. But Merkel’s remarks made clear that the bloc’s most powerful nation, which takes a leading diplomatic role in the Balkans, does not want the EU to endorse the idea.