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US Senator calls on Kosovo to end tariffs or face US troop withdrawal

U.S. Senator David Perdue of Georgia speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has called on Kosovo to annul tariffs on Serbian goods and services or face a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Senator David Perdue (Republican-Georgia) said on March 10 that U.S. forces have helped maintain peace between Kosovo and Serbia and that Pristina now “must do its part” to maintain stability by removing the tariffs, he said, reiterating the Trump administration’s policy.

“If Kosovo is not fully committed to peace, then the U.S. should reconsider its presence there,” Perdue, who is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a tweet.

Donald Trump Jr., the U.S. president’s son, retweeted Perdue’s statement, adding there are 650 troops in Kosovo and that it’s “time to bring them home.”

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The United States is one of the biggest backers of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, which Pristina declared in 2008. Serbia continues to consider its former province part of its territory.

Pristina imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and services in November 2018 in response to Belgrade’s continued lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo.

Sierra Leone recently became the 18th country to withdraw its recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation.

The Kosovar government on February 27 announced it would temporarily and partly lift the tariff — a move described by the special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, Richard Grenell, who has recently been appointed as Trump’s intelligence chief, as a “half measure.”

Grenell earlier this month brought Kosovar President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic together at the While House to discuss ways to reach a final agreement between the two Balkan countries.