President Trump on Friday hosted the leaders of Serbia and breakaway republic Kosovo for the signing of a landmark economic normalization agreement.
Trump, seated behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, presided as Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbia President Aleksandar Vučić inked the deal, seated at desks on either side of Trump.
Kosovo broke away from Serbia with US assistance following a genocidal war waged by then-Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević. In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, following de facto independence since 1999.
“Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization” Trump told reporters, signaling a breakthrough after a deep freeze in relations between the countries.
“It took decades because you didn’t have anybody trying to get it done,” Trump said. “There was a lot of fighting and now there’s a lot of love.”
Serbia still doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, but the deal is a significant step toward ending the political stalemate.
“Let’s give them a little taste of the Trump economy,” said Richard Grenell, the US special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo talks and the former US ambassador to Germany.
Kosovo is primarily inhabited by Muslim ethnic Albanians and was one of the final states to break free from the former Yugoslavia.
The Serbian president said Trump had done a “great job,” and the Kosovar leader hailed Trump’s “commitment to peace.”
Trump noted his administration also recently brokered the first normalization of relations between Israel and an Arab nation in decades. The United Arab Emirates last month agreed to establish direct flights with Israel and recognize its independence.
The White House also said in a statement that “Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalization of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations.”
Trump told reporters that he was pleased by new job figures released Friday that show the US economy added 1.4 million jobs last month in the latest sign of the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The jobless rate fell to 8.4 percent in August, down from 10.2 percent in July.
The president also repeated his denial of allegations in a Thursday story published by The Atlantic, which claimed he called war dead “suckers.”
“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” Trump said, after many aides disputed the claims.
Trump invoked the tell-all memoir by his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who did not include the allegations in an otherwise deeply critical account of his tenure.