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President Joe Biden says 'mutual recognition' key to Kosovo, Serbia talks

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Joe Biden joined by his family members walk along the national road named after his late son in the village of Sojevo, Kosovo, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.
Joe Biden joined by his family members walk along the national road named after his late son in the village of Sojevo, Kosovo, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.   -   Copyright  Visar Kryeziu/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu
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President Joe Biden has said that mutual recognition between Serbia and Kosovo will be at the centre of a future peace deal between the two nations, and that normalisation of relations with Belgrade will be essential to ending Pristina's international isolation.

In a letter to Kosovo's new president, Vjosa Osmani, Biden said that the U.S. would work with her administration on issues of corruption and strengthening the rule of law, as well as developing the country's economy and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

But "equally important," he wrote, "[are] efforts to secure a lasting peace through productive dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and ultimately a comprehensive normalisation agreement.

"Normalisation of relations with Serbia is essential for Kosovo to realise its potential and fully integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. I know reaching that goal will require flexibility and difficult compromises along the way."

Osmani, who was elected president last month after Albin Kurti's Vetëvendosje movement won a landslide in February's elections, shared the letter from Biden on Twitter.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after Serbia's invasion of the territory between 1998 and 1999 was ended by a NATO bombing campaign. Biden led efforts in the U.S. Senate to support NATO's intervention, which ended a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Serbian forces.

Serbia, along with Russia and China, still refuses to recognise Kosovo as an independent state and has actively lobbied for other nations to withdraw their support for it.

Both the European Union and Washington have been involved in efforts to promote dialogue between the two countries that could result in a lasting peace deal.

In 2020, President Donald Trump invited the leaders of both nations to the White House to sign a normalisation deal that did not include Serbian recognition of Kosovo.

Trump branded the deal as "historic" and appeared to believe that Kosovo and Serbia were still at war during a bizarre press conference in Washington, but critics pointed out that the deal was of little substance and left most of the major sticking points between the two countries unresolved.

Kurti, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, did not prioritise Kosovo's dialogue with Serbia during his campaign. A day after the election, Kurti told Euronews that any dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia depended on Belgrade recognising Kosovo, apologising for the war, and paying reparations,

Those conditions are unlikely to be accepted by Serbia's hardline president, Aleksander Vucic, whose nationalist base considers Kosovo a province of Serbia.

In his letter, Biden spoke emotionally of his and his family's close relationship with Kosovo, including that of his late son, Beau Biden, who worked in the capital, Pristina, after the war training judges. In 2016, Kosovo named a road after Beau Biden, who died of cancer in 2015.