Trump Administration Would Support Serbia and Kosovo Territory Swap, John Bolton Reveals

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, announced Friday that the U.S. would not try to influence a proposal being floated in the Balkans that would see Serbia swap territory with Kosovo in exchange for recognizing its former province's independence as a sovereign nation.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognized by more than 100 countries worldwide, including the United States. But Serbia has never accepted that Kosovo is an independent country. The decades-long dispute over Kosovo's independence is preventing both countries from joining the European Union and has prevented Kosovo from gaining a seat at the United Nations.

Now, however, Serbia is pushing behind the scenes for parts of northern Kosovo, that are populated by ethnic Serbs, to be exchanged for parts of southern Serbia, populated by ethnic Albanians who make up the majority of Kosovo. The idea has not been rejected entirely by Kosovo's leadership, either; usually the international community opposes dividing up nation-states along ethnic lines.

Speaking at a press conference in Ukraine on Friday, Bolton announced that the U.S. had abandoned its long-standing opposition to such proposals.

"The U.S. policy is that if the two parties can work it out between themselves and reach agreement, we don't exclude territorial adjustments," Bolton said.

"We would not stand in the way, and I don't think anybody in Europe would stand in the way, if the two parties to the dispute reached a mutually satisfactory settlement."

National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks at a press conference during a visit to Ukraine. Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Regional analysts had been speculating about what the U.S.'s position on this issue would be for months. The U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, had first alerted people to the fact that U.S. policy might be shifting when he refused to categorically rule out the idea of a territory swap during a press conference in July.

Some experts were alarmed by Bolton's statement, saying it set a dangerous precedent for other groups in the region who might want to carve up their own ethnic enclaves.

"It will be read as a green light by nationalists across the Balkans that the U.S. is no longer interested in the region's post-Yugoslav status quo, and that if they concoct sufficiently volatile crises the U.S. may actually agree [to] the recognition of future breakaway territories or future partition agreements," Jasmin Mujanovic, author of the book Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans, told Newsweek.

"That's especially worrisome for Bosnia but also Macedonia, which has traditionally relied on Washington as the chief outside backer of their territorial integrity," Mujanovic added.

The idea has also been opposed by many European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump Administration Would Support Serbia and Kosovo Territory Swap, John Bolton Reveals | World