US names envoy to integrate Western Balkans

Washington (AFP) –


The United States on Friday named a veteran diplomat, Matthew Palmer, as special representative for the Western Balkans tasked with helping integrate the area with the West.

Palmer "will lead our efforts to strengthen US diplomatic engagement in support of peace, stability and prosperity in the region," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

He will "focus on integration of the Western Balkan countries into Western institutions," he said.

The United States has historically supported the integration of the Western Balkans, which include much of the former Yugoslavia and Albania, into institutions such as the European Union and NATO.

Montenegro joined NATO in 2017 and North Macedonia is likely to enter the alliance soon after resolving a long-running row with Greece over its name.

The European Union has set a general goal of welcoming Serbia and Montenegro in 2025, although major points of friction remain, particularly Belgrade's refusal to recognize the independence of former province Kosovo.

Palmer has focused on the region for decades and is also a novelist, whose works include "The Wolf of Sarajevo," a thriller about a US diplomat haunted by failing to stop the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Palmer will take part next week in a regional conference in Slovenia and then in talks in Brussels of the so-called Quint -- five NATO members that focus on the Western Balkans.