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Trump envoy hails deal to resume Serbia-Kosovo rail service

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo said Saturday that an agreement to resume railway service between the two Balkan rivals is important for both nations.

Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany, said establishing train links became a priority after U.S. officials brokered another deal earlier this week to restore air traffic between the countries after 21 years.

Grenell visited Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, and Serbia's capital of Belgrade this week. He said Friday at a press conference in Belgrade that details of an agreement to restore rail service would be discussed at a meeting in Berlin on Monday.

“President Trump’s vision is now happening. The business community and the focus on job creation is leading the way,” Grenell said in a written statement to The Associated Press. Grenell was appointed by Trump in October as the special envoy to talks to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The European Union-mediated negotiations started in 2011 and have been stalled since Kosovo imposed a trade tax on Serbian goods in 2018.

Serbia does not accept Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, although its former province has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the United States and most EU nations. Grenell has said the U.S. wants the two sides to focus on the economy, new jobs and prosperity as the way toward normalizing ties. He has urged Serbia and Kosovo to remove obstacles that have blocked the talks for more than a year.

Serbia's brutal intervention against Kosovo's independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 prompted NATO to intervene to stop the conflict. Relations have remained tense ever since despite EU-led talks.

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