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Kosovo President: ‘US is a Key to Settle Ongoing Conflict with Serbia’

The former Serb and predominantly ethnic Albanian republic of Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, almost a decade after a bloody war there

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kosovo president, kosovo serbia conflict
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcome Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, center, to a meeting with Western Balkans leaders, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 29, 2019. VOA

The United States is key to settling the ongoing conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said on Monday, pointing to the inability of major European countries to reach a unified position on the issue.

The former Serb and predominantly ethnic Albanian republic of Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, almost a decade after a bloody war there.

It won recognition from the United States and most EU countries, but not from Serbia or its big power patron Russia, and relations between Belgrade and Kosovo remain tense. “Without the U.S. we can never have any dialogue, negotiations or any agreement,” Thaci told Reuters TV in Berlin, adding: “The EU is not united in this process.”

kosovo president, kosovo serbia conflict
Thaci stressed that Serbia tended to orient itself towards Russia but Kosovo wanted to be part of NATO and the European Union as soon as possible. VOA

Thaci was in Berlin to join a summit later on Monday on the Western Balkans, called by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Thaci played down the expectations for the Berlin meeting saying: “I will not expect any miracle.”

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It is crucial for Serbia to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, Thaci said. “We will ask today Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to convince (Serb) President (Aleksandar) Vucic to recognize Kosovo”, Thaci said, adding that if that does not happen, “I think the meeting in Berlin will not be useful.”

Thaci stressed that Serbia tended to orient itself towards Russia but Kosovo wanted to be part of NATO and the European Union as soon as possible.

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US Sanctions on Cuba Deterring American Firms from Exploring Its Telecommunications Sector

It remains unclear how open it would be to U.S. investment in the strategic telecoms sector

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US, Cuba, American Firms
FILE - Cubans check their phones at an internet hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2018. VOA

U.S. sanctions on Cuba are deterring American firms from exploring its telecommunications sector even as Washington seeks to expand internet access on the Communist-run island, according to the final report of a U.S. government task force released on Tuesday.

Chinese companies dominate Cuba’s telecoms sector, a status quo “worth challenging given concerns that the Cuban government potentially obtains its censorship equipment from Chinese Internet infrastructure providers,” the report said.

Cuba’s government protested the U.S. State Department’s creation of a Cuba Internet Task Force last year as “foreign interference.” It remains unclear how open it would be to U.S. investment in the strategic telecoms sector.

“U.S. companies informed the subcommittees they are often deterred from entering the market due to uncertainty caused by frequent changes to U.S. regulations concerning Cuba,” according to the task force, convened last year by the State Department.

US, Cuba, American Firms
U.S. sanctions on Cuba are deterring American firms from exploring its telecommunications sector. Pixabay

U.S. presidents have successively tightened and loosened the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba imposed in the years after its 1959 revolution.

Former President Barack Obama created a loophole for U.S. telecommunications companies to provide certain services to Cuba. His successor, Donald Trump, maintained the loophole but tightened the broader sanctions, worsening the overall business climate.

Banks are increasingly reluctant to process payments originating in Cuba. Some telecoms firms surveyed by the task force said that was putting them off offering key services and products in the country.

The task force advised the U.S. government to clear up the regulatory uncertainty and seek feedback on how to improve telecoms firms’ ability to invest.

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Until 2013, the internet was largely available to the public in Cuba only at tourist hotels amid the U.S. embargo, lack of cash and concerns over the free flow of information.

The government has increased web access in recent years, installing a fiber-optic cable to Venezuela and introducing cyber cafes, Wi-Fi hot spots and mobile internet.

Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA signed a deal earlier this year with Alphabet’s Google on increasing connectivity, but the two have not publicly agreed on any significant investments. (VOA)