US official says 'now is the time' to solve Balkan disputes

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A senior U.S. official says the United States wants to help solve problems in Western Balkans, a troubled European region where Russia has sought to increase its influence.

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said Wednesday in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, that he sees a "tremendous window of opportunity" for progress in the Balkans.

Mitchell said after talks with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic that "that is a job for all of us." He added: "Now is the time to work together to solve these problems for the benefit of future generations."

Mitchell visited Macedonia and Kosovo before Serbia. Macedonia has been locked in a name dispute with Greece while Serbia has refused to recognize the declaration of independence by its former province of Kosovo.