Serbia’s star tennis player Novak Djokovic has backed his controversial comments that “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia”, which had drawn heavy criticism from France’s sports minister.
“I would say it again, but I don’t need it because you have my quotes,” Djokovic told reporters at Roland Garros after his second-round win on Wednesday night at the Roland-Garros tennis tournament, according to the wire. French press AFP.
“I’m aware a lot of people would disagree, but that’s the way it is,” added the 22-time Grand Slam winner. “It’s something I stand for.”
Djokovic, one of the most successful athletes in tennis history and a superstar in his home country of Serbia, drew criticism at the Paris tournament on Monday. “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence,” Djokovic wrote in Serbian on a TV camera screen after his first-round victory.
Clashes between police and Kosovo Serb protesters in northern Kosovo have sparked a resurgence of long-running tensions between Serbia and Kosovo – which declared independence in 2008 but is not recognized by Belgrade. Dozens of people have been injured in the recent skirmishes, including NATO soldiers.
In an interview with POLITICO, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti blamed Serbia for the recent escalation and warned it could escalate into a wider conflict – but that, he said, ‘depends’ from Belgrade.
Djokovic’s quirky comment sparked a backlash from French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who said His message on Wednesday was “clearly not appropriate”.
“We really shouldn’t go down this road, especially given the circumstances,” the minister said. “This can’t happen again.”
Kosovo’s tennis federation said Djokovic’s comments were “deplorable” and contributed to rising tensions, in a statement on Tuesday.