Nighttime violence tense in northern Kosovo, Serbs block roads
EULEX, which has some 134 Polish, Italian and Lithuanian police deployed in the north, called on “officials to refrain from provocative actions” and said it urged Kosovo institutions “to bring the perpetrators to justice”. .
Recent tensions remain high, with Serbia and Kosovo intensifying their exchange of words.
Serbia’s president said on Saturday he would formally ask NATO for permission to deploy Serbian troops in northern Kosovo, while conceding it was unlikely to be granted.
Serbian officials say a UN resolution that formally ended the country’s bloody crackdown on the majority of Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999 allows some 1,000 Serbian troops to return to Kosovo. NATO bombed Serbia to end the war and drive its troops out of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.
NATO-led peacekeepers who have been working in Kosovo since the war are expected to give the green light for Serb troops to move there, which is highly unlikely as it would mean de facto handing over the security of Serb-populated northern areas from Kosovo to Serb forces, a move that could significantly increase tensions in the Balkans.
“We don’t want conflict. We want peace and progress, but we will respond to aggression with all our might,’ Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on social media.
Kurti told the European Union and the United States that failure to speak out against such violence, which he said was orchestrated by Belgrade, “would push it to destabilize Kosovo”.
Tension in the north has been high this week ahead of polls originally scheduled for December 18. They have now been postponed until April 23 in an attempt to defuse the situation.
The election was to take place after ethnic Serb representatives resigned from office in November in protest at the Kosovo government’s decision to ban Serbian-issued vehicle license plates.
Serbian lawmakers, prosecutors and police have also abandoned local government posts.
Tensions have been high in Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia, despite attempts by European Union and US officials to defuse them. Serbia, backed by its allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood.
Serbia and Kosovo both want to join the EU, but Brussels has warned they must resolve their dispute and normalize relations to be eligible for membership in the bloc.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO-led mission in Kosovo “remains vigilant”.
Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.