Kosovo president sees Washington as key to solve conflict with Serbia

BERLIN (Reuters) - 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”.

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.”

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.

Reporting by Alexander Ratz and Reuters TV; Editing by Frances Kerry