Kosovo PM hails deal on flights with Serbia as step forward

Kosovo PM hails deal on flights with Serbia as step forward
Robert C. O'Brien, left, United States National Security Advisor, and Richard Grenell, right, United States Ambassador to Germany, address the media during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 prior to the signing of an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, establishing air service between the two capitals. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo outgoing prime minister on Wednesday hailed the agreement with Serbia on a resumption of commercial flights, which will increase travel and economic ties between the Balkan nations.

Ramush Haradinaj considered the ‘letter of intent’ signed Monday at the U.S. embassy in Berin as a step forward.

The deal between Serbia, Kosovo and German airline Lufthansa was brokered by U.S. diplomats. Serbia and Kosovo have remained uneasy neighbors ever since their 1998-99 war that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left over 1 million people homeless.

There have been no commercial flights between Kosovo and Serbia in 21 years.

Serbia continues to consider Kosovo part of its territory, although Kosovo's 2008 independence has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the United States.

The 25-minute flight between Belgrade and Pristina will be operated by Lufthansa's budget carrier Eurowings.

“It is a small step towards a major objective, which is the full normalization of the relations,” said Eset Berisha, Kosovo’s Civil Aviation Authority chief.

Kosovo and Serbia halted EU-mediated talks in November 2018 after Pristina set a 100% tax on Serbian goods.

Haradinaj said the new deal has nothing to do with the 100% tariff and Lufthansa would be treated like the other carriers with no increased tax.

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