'Don't screw up': U.S. envoy losing patience with Kosovo political impasse

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 06, 2014 10:47 AM

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) - The U.S. envoy to Kosovo broke with diplomatic protocol on Thursday to signal Washington's growing impatience with the country's political leaders, who have been arguing over who gets to rule the young Balkan nation.

"Don't screw up," Ambassador Tracey Ann Jacobson said, using an equivalent Albanian expletive.

The colorful language was directed at political leaders locked in dispute for the past five months over who has the right to form Kosovo's next government following an inconclusive June election.

With little sign of compromise, the country of 1.8 million people faces the possibility of a repeat election that its economy can ill afford.

"My message to the politicians has been clear, I can even say it in Albanian, Mos e dhi punen (Don’t screw up)," Jacobson, who has been ambassador since 2012, said during an appearance at a non-governmental organization in Pristina called SPEAK.

The outgoing ruling party and its opponents are arguing over the wording of the constitution, paralyzing parliament and frustrating the efforts of Kosovo's president to mediate a solution.

Jacobson's choice of language is unlikely to go unnoticed in Pristina. The United States enjoys deep respect in Kosovo for leading a 1999 NATO bombing campaign to end a wave of killing and expulsions of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency war in the then Serbian province.

Majority-Albanian, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, with the backing of Washington and other Western powers.

"I've been very open and will continue to be so; I will continue to do my job in terms of meeting political leaders and telling them it is time to move forward," Jacobson said.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Susan Fenton)