Europe

Serbia to launch direct Belgrade-Pristina flights

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomes letter of intent signed between Serbia, German carrier Lufthansa

Talha Ozturk   | 20.01.2020
Serbia to launch direct Belgrade-Pristina flights

BELGRADE, Serbia 

Serbia on Monday signed a letter of intent with German airline Lufthansa in Berlin to renew flights between its capital Belgrade and Pristina, Kosova.

This is the first step in two decades to reestablish air traffic between the two countries' capitals.

Kosovo had declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still insists that the country is one of its provinces. Tensions have also persisted between Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority and a small Serb minority in its north.

The letter of intent was signed at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin in the presence of the U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Presidential Special Envoy for the Dialogue of Belgrade and Pristina Richard Grenell and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien.

On the Serbian side, the letter of intent was signed by State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy, Milun Trivunac, and by Director General of the Kosovo Civil Aviation Administration, Eset Berisha, on behalf of Kosovo.

O'Brien called the agreement "historic," adding that commercial ties were "the backbone of the modern economy."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move.

"This is an important step, which will make the circulation of people and goods easier and faster within the Western Balkans region.

In a written statement, Stoltenberg said the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission retained authority in the airspace above Kosovo, under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and that NATO would remain involved through the long-standing Balkans Aviation Normalization Meeting process.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci described the move as an "important step for citizens' movement and the process of normalization."

Re-establishing air traffic between Belgrade and Pristina can only do good, Serbia's Minister of Transport Zorana Mihajlovic said, adding that she had been working on establishing administrative and technical conditions for some time.

Kosovo's independence has been recognized by over 100 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Turkey. Those who have not yet recognized its independence, included Serbia, Russia, and China.

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