- The Washington Times
Friday, September 4, 2020

President Trump hailed the peacemaking powers of economics Friday as he presided over the White House signing of a deal between leaders from Serbia and Kosovo.

“Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo.

Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell served as a special envoy for the talks. The idea is that normalizing the economic relationship will lead to better political relations between the countries.

“Let’s give them a little taste of the Trump economy,” Mr. Grenell said.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Grenell said the deal only could have been accomplished by an “outsider” administration.

The two Balkan nations have long engaged in brinkmanship that began with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and continued after the late 1990s, NATO-led bombing campaign that forced Serbia into relinquishing control of Kosovo.

“This story has been lingering for decades,” Mr. Grenell said. “We’ve been working very hard on this agreement for a long time.”

Among other provisions, the deal calls for cooperation on highways and rail systems linking the countries and launches a feasibility study — in partnership with the U.S. Energy Department — on using a border lake as an energy and water supply.

It calls on both countries to protect religious sites, recognize diplomas and professional certificates issued in either country and use 5G cellular networks from trusted suppliers.

Mr. Trump likened the deal to a recent peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates which hinged on economic development. Like the UAE, Kosovo has agreed — as a majority-Muslim country — to recognize Israel.

Mr. Trump said he’s found a winning formula and is willing to take on challenges that have festered for too long.

“It took decades because you didn’t have anybody trying to get it done,” Mr. Trump said of the Serbia-Kosovo deal. “There was a lot of fighting and now there’s a lot of love.”

“Economics can bring people together,” the president added.

Mr. Hoti praised it as a big step forward, while Mr. Vucic invited Mr. Trump to visit Serbia.

Guy Taylor contributed to this story.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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