Kosovo urges U.S. involvement in Belgrade, Pristina talks

(This version of the October 15 story corrects PM’s first name to Ramush from Ramuch in first paragraph)

Slideshow ( 2 images )

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s newly appointed prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, on Monday urged the United States, his country’s main ally, to become involved in EU-sponsored talks between Kosovo and Serbia aimed at settling their differences.

Serbia refuses to recognize independence of Kosovo, its former province, but it has committed to EU-supported talks in order to accelerate its own accession to the EU bloc.

Since 2013 the two countries have reached a series of agreements but few have been implemented so far and the talks themselves have been stalled since this spring.

Haradinaj said U.S. participation was vital to move the talks forward.

“A U.S. role is necessary for peace,” Haradinaj, a former guerrilla leader told Reuters. “We see a U.S. role at the table as an essential necessity.”

The talks should conclude with mutual statehood recognition “between Kosovo and Serbia,” he said.

Kosovo Albanians have looked on the United States as their main ally since the start of their struggle for independence in the late 1990s.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces accused of killing and expelling ethnic Albanian civilians during a counter-insurgency war.

Kosovo has been recognized by 115 countries, including 23 of the EU’s 28 members. But its U.N. membership is blocked by Serbia’s allies Russia and China.

Haradinaj said by end of the year his government would sign a deal with the U.S. power company ContourGlobal for a billion euro coal-fired power plant project.

The New York-based company was the only bidder for the 660 megawatt (MW) plant that will replace the Balkan country’s 40-year-old Kosovo A power plant.

The project has been criticised by environmentalists who say Kosovo should rely more on renewable energy sources rather than on coal.

“It will have a clean and advanced technology and it will guarantee enough power for the next 20 years,” Haradinaj said.

Kosovo still faces power shortages in winter with its two ageing coal-fired power plants under strain to meet demand.

Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Richard Balmforth