United States President Donald Trump on Friday announced normalisation of economic ties between Serbia and Kosovo, saying that the two countries were able to reach a "real breakthrough" on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues.
"Today, I am pleased to announce yet another historic commitment. Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalisation," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House.
He was accompanied by President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo.
Moments later, the two leaders along with the President Trump signed the agreements.
Trump said that he looks forward to seeing Serbia and Kosovo prosper as "we work together on economic cooperation in the region going forward."
Although most of Kosovo is ethnically Albanian, many Serbs consider it their native homeland and a cradle of their culture. Some 13,000 people were killed in the 1998-1999 war, sparked by clashes between the forces of the rump Yugoslav state -- Serbia and Montenegro -- and Kosovo separatists. The conflict ended when NATO carried out an air campaign against Serbia.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, but Serbia and its ally Russia have yet to recognise its sovereignty.
"After a violent and tragic history and years of failed negotiations, my administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide. By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a real breakthrough on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues," Trump said.
"We have also made additional progress on reaching peace in the Middle East. Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalisation of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations. Serbia has committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and to move its embassy to Jerusalem by July," he said.
"It has taken tremendous bravery by President Vucic of Serbia and Prime Minister Hoti of Kosovo to embark on these talks and to come to Washington to finalise these commitments. By doing so, they have made their countries, the Balkans, and the world safer," he said.
During the signing ceremony, President Vucic said that Trump had done a 'great job' and praised his commitment to the region.
Inviting him to Serbia, he said that Trump would be the first US president since Jimmy Carter visited the country in 1980.
Prime Minister Hoti termed it as a huge step forward.
Terming it as a historic day, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brian said the focus is on economic cooperation.
US Vice President Mike Pence said that this is an important step for peace in the Balkans.
Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin said that people from the two countries would see the benefit of economic agreement.