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Kosovo, Serb dispute threatens to derail Balkan peace

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MITROVICA, Kosovo -?European union is stepping amongst squabbling Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, fearing that any new?dispute?could undo nearly twenty years of efforts to stabilize?the southern Balkans.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini soon endeavor for getting leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to defuse a dispute more than a rail link between both adversaries?which has stoked old tensions and territorial disputes.

Just on the week ago, a Serbian train emblazoned with nationalist slogans, including ‘Kosovo is Serbia,’ prompted fresh fears that heated rhetoric inside the Western Balkans could escalate into over the war of words. Decorated in Serbian national colors, the train was said to be the first one to go direct from Serbia’s capital Belgrade to north Mitrovica, a Serb-dominated part of Kosovo, in nearly over twenty years. The train stopped before crossing into Kosovo after Pristina claimed it had sent special police to the border.

The incident prompted essentially the most hostile exchanges backward and forward sides in a long time, and served as a reminder on the fragility on the peace imposed with the West in your community after the selection of wars inside the 1990s, one more ending with Serbia’s losing control over?Kosovo in 1999.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikoli? said the two sides were to the “brink of war,” and threatened to deliver from the army if “they start killing Serbs.” His Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, accused Belgrade of any “provocation” and plotting to annex northern Kosovo just like Russia seized charge of Crimea.

The Western Balkans are full of weapons, many?advisors unregistered and privately owned and locals have demostrated a willingness to utilize them in Mitrovica.

Belgrade is not going to recognize?Kosovo’s independence – declared unilaterally in 2008 – about that instead as the rebellious province that continues to be section of Serbia. However it agreed to “normalize relations” with Pristina this season as being a condition for eventual accession to your EU.

In the wake within the train incident, Mogherini this morning invited all parties to the high-level meeting within their ongoing EU-sponsored dialogue on Tuesday.?The presidents and prime ministers of both Serbia and Kosovo result from?attend Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels, underscoring the degree of recent events.

    “The developments during the last days underline the demand for increased commitment and engagement from the two sides from the dialogue,” Mogherini’s office said inside a statement.?”Progress in the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia remains very important for the sides, for any Western european, along with the Western Balkans overall.”

    With Serbian presidential elections approaching in April, some have interpreted the train flare-up as political maneuvering, a quotation by Serbian Pm Aleksandar Vu?i? the culprit the incident about the incumbent president, Nikoli?, and erode his support killing the vote. (Vu?i? claimed he previously had no information about the provocative decor within the train until he first viewed it on tv.)

    Analysts caution the problem could quickly escape hand. “Vu?i? is using fire,” said Dejan Anastasijevi?, a Serbian journalist who covered the Yugoslav wars from the 1990s. “He’s playing a political game, but, we all know, such incidents can rapidly get lost within the Balkans.”

    Although a European Union-sponsored deal signed in 2013 made some inroads toward normalizing relations, progress in implementing many experts have slow and peace remains fragile, especially in multi-ethnic areas.

    “The EU is actually a necessary soft souped up that has transformed the Western Balkans,” Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo’s foreign minister, told Newsman. “Kosovo’s achievements include the achievements in the EU and, therefore, Brussels?should protect its long-term investments inside wider region, including Kosovo.”

    Nasty surprises

    Nearly two full decades on through the 1998-99 Kosovo war, tensions in Mitrovica, the train’s intended destination, remain visible. Sliced by 50 percent from the Ibar River, the area living around the northern side of your city is predominantly Serb, while those living about the southern side are mostly ethnic Albanians. Troops through the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force still maintain a constant presence in the main bridge backward and forward sides from the city, although it has long been closed to traffic because war.

    “This situation [with the train] has two messages,” said Branislav Krsti? a journalist and analyst from Mitrovica. “One is an internal political message. Other is really a message to America along with the Eu that whenever they fight to exert an excessive amount pressure to modify the political dynamic in Belgrade, there will be nasty surprises.”

    In northern Mitrovica’s smoky cafes and bars, the growing tensions undoubtedly are a hot topic of conversation and rumors are rife. While point out the convenient timing within the spat, also there is a?real fear which a single serious incident could provoke a violent domino effect.

    “Of course, it’ll make people nervous whenever you hear politicians talk of fight against the tv screen. People here are in a position to fight, to self-mobilize while they have before, and a lot of houses have a minimum of two guns,” said Aca Miti?, a 22-year-old student, drinking a macchiato. “If there’s an incident [in retaliation for that train], if somebody is killed or badly hurt, then Serbs will respond.”

    “Mild rebukes aren’t the answer to these issues.” – Senior official?during the international community getting work done in Mitrovica

    Speaking within his office in north Mitrovica, Miodrag Mili?evi?, the chief director of Activ, an NGO representing Serbs in northern Kosovo, said the developments boost an “already tense atmosphere.”

    “Here we will revisit 18 years in only some day, sixty minutes,” he added. “This train issue shows everyone how much quicker any normalization of relations could be undone.”

    Brussels urged to put on brakes

    The Western Balkans are awash with weapons, many?of those unregistered and privately operated -?a legacy from your wars within the 1990s -?and locals have established a willingness for their services in Mitrovica.

    Earlier this month, aid grenade was thrown in the government building for the northern side within the city, after Kosovo’s minister for the EU-backed dialogue, Edita Tahiri, delivered an address on expanding Pristina’s authority in the Serb-run areas in the north of the country. An unexploded bomb has also been purchased at expensive hotels that she undergone.

    In 2013, armed, masked men broke in a polling station and stole ballot boxes throughout a controversial vote which saw Serb areas during the north participate at last in Kosovo-wide elections.

    One senior official within the international community getting work done in Mitrovica described Belgrade’s decision to give the train to your city as “ludicrous, dangerous game-playing,” as well as accused the European Union of just “sitting for their hands” reacting into the escalating tensions in the community.

    “Mild rebukes aren’t damaged whipped cream these problems,” added a certified, who asked to not be named when they were not authorized to speak with a journalist. “Brussels comprehends what’s going on and requirements to have a firm stance to set the brakes on this.”

    Harry Cooper in Brussels contributed reporting to the article.

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    Black caucus chairman pushes to censure Trump over ‘shithole’ remark

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    Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond on Thursday introduced a solution to censure President Donald Trump over what he contends would be the president\’s racist rhetoric referring to El Salvador, Haiti and African nations as \”shithole countries.\”

    The resolution – who has much more than 130 co-sponsors, including House Democratic leaders – calls over the House to publicly state its support for any nations Trump disparaged, censure and condemn the president for his statements, and demand he retract his comments and apologize.

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    At a news conference announcing the resolution alongside House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) as well as other Democrats, Richmond (D-La.) said Trump\’s controversial comments \”should have not been made\” and \”were factually inaccurate.\”

    Richmond conceded, however, the resolution isn\’t \”privileged,\” meaning House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) might need to say yes to carry it in order with the chamber to keep a vote. It\’s almost certain Ryan will not likely do this.

    \”If he doesn\’t, we then will be at other ways to just make a vote on there,\” Richmond told reporters. \”But the facts from the matter is definitely the speaker should bring it up. In the event that he doesn\’t, establishing is enabling and recurring to allow obama to perpetuate this hateful rhetoric, as well as at certain point – whether you agree or disagree – I believe this is the speaker\’s obligation to safeguard the dignity of the property.\”

    If Ryan will not allow a vote, Richmond said he among others would hunt for "creative" strategies to force one.

    Like most Republican leaders, Ryan hasn\’t said much for the president\’s reported comments, though he did acknowledge the other day that they are \”very unfortunate\” and \”unhelpful.\” For Richmond, however, that wasn\’t enough.

    \”It\’s unfortunate when I miss my bus. Or it\’s unfortunate in the event the airlines lose my luggage,\” he was quoted saying. \”But when the president of america decides to Africa, Haiti and El Salvador which he used, which isn\’t unfortunate. That is wrong. That\’s disgusting. That is definitely hurtful. There are a variety of words because of it, but unfortunate\’s undertake and don\’t.\”

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    Ryan's 2017 fundraising haul: $44 million

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan raised more than $44 million in 2017, an off-year record to get a House leader – a financial haul Republicans hope will shore up vulnerable GOP members in what\’s shaping up to often be a tough midterm cycle for Republicans.

    In a final quarter, Ryan raised $4.8 million, his political operation will announce Thursday – down from $6.7 million during the third quarter.

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    The infusion of greenbacks is a follower of Republicans passed a tax reform law last December, which GOP members said would drive support among voters and donors. But also in 2018, Republicans must defend its 24-seat majority spanning a broad battlefield, while President Donald Trump\’s approval ratings stay in the bottom 40s and Democrats hold a broad bring success the generic ballot. Nearly 24 retirements, including California Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa latest research by, will force Republicans to invest more heavily to protect these open seats.

    In 2017, Ryan transferred $32 million to the National Republican Campaign Committee, which announced a unique record-breaking off-year total with $85 million raised in the last year. Ryan also transferred $1.7 million on to GOP members, as well as hosting 49 fundraisers for members.

    "This eye-popping number is usually a testament to Speaker Ryan, House Republicans, as well as the agenda them to led your strugle on in 2017," said Kevin Seifert, executive director of Team Ryan, the speaker\’s fundraising committee.

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    Bannon won't testify again on Russia Thursday

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    Former White House adviser Steve Bannon declined House Russia investigators\’ request to go back for a second interview Thursday, telling lawmakers through his lawyer their own obtain him to go back just 2 days after his first appearance was "unreasonable."

    "The Committee\’s subpoena provides require Mr. Bannon\’s appearance for that second deposition [Thursday] at 2pm. That may be plainly insufficient time for me to undertake precisely what the Committee has asked," Bannon\’s attorney William Burck wrote within a Wednesday letter to store intelligence committee leaders obtained by POLITICO.

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    Instead, Burck told committee leaders that the former senior aide to President Donald Trump would return after reaching an accommodation when using the White House to make sure his testimony doesn\’t violate executive privilege.

    On Tuesday, Bannon-citing instructions from your Trump administration-refused to reply Republican and Democrats\’ questions on his amount of the White House, the post-election transition team and in some cases about his conversations with the president after he was fired from his post in August. His stonewalling infuriated persons in both parties, who subpoenaed him immediately. But despite the subpoena, Bannon declined to reply to their questions.

    Burck\’s letter told the committee\’s top Russia investigators, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), that Bannon remains ready to answer the committee\’s questions-but after striking an understanding together with the White House while on an acceptable scope of questioning.

    "There isn\’t any conceivable solution to talk to the White House Mr. Bannon\’s time using the transition and also the White House, obtain their thoughts about the knowledge he previously provide, communicate those views back to the Committee, relay the Committee\’s views time for the White House, and then negotiate or facilitate a binding agreement amongst the Committee along with the White House from the time allotted by the Committee\’s subpoena," Burck wrote.

    Committee members at the moment are weighing calling hold Bannon in contempt of Congress for avoiding their questions. They\’ve noted that White House lawyers haven\’t formally invoked executive privilege-they just have suggested that Bannon\’s testimony might implicate it.

    White House officials have argued that it is customary for Congress to coordinate the scope of the questions with current and former officials to stop violating privileged information.

    But GOP and Democratic lawmakers have questioned this argument, suggesting they see no reasonable interpretation of executive privilege that might preclude Bannon from discussing his time over the transition team, that is before Trump was president.

    Burck indicated that the committee didn\’t have use of White House and transition documents that has to be relevant precursors to the questions for Bannon and suggested lawmakers and Bannon would require time for them to produce them and review them before Bannon\’s next interview.

    "There are lots of lawyers over the Committee plus the Staff, and i also could well be surprised as long as they believed it becomes anything in addition to unprofessional even unethical should be expected to depose a witness that has did not have possibility for review relevant documents," he said.

    Burck also indicated a potential disconnect between committee staff and lawmakers. He revealed that he had informed the employees of the committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the White House "may not permit Mr. Bannon to discuss his in time the transition and the White House unless an accommodation was agreed between your Committee plus the White House."

    "Staff raised no objection to the telltale restrictions in any of such conversations," he said. "The main objection came yesterday within the Members who appear not to have been informed by Staff about our prior conversations."

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