NATO warned Kosovo against “destabilizing actions” after clashes broke out between Kosovo police and Serbs who tried to prevent newly elected Albanian mayors from entering municipal buildings.
“Pristina must de-escalate [and] not make unilateral, destabilizing moves,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter on May 28, referring to the Kosovo capital.
Stoltenberg said he spoke with European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about the situation in Kosovo and called on Kosovo and Serbia to join the EU-led dialogue to achieve peace.
“NATO will continue to ensure a secure [and] secure environment,” he added.
Footage released on social media showed NATO-led troops present near municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, days after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic criticized NATO for not acting sooner.
Dozens of people were injured, including police officers, and several cars were set on fire during the clashes. Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and allowed the new officials Zvekan, Leposavic and Zubin to enter the municipal buildings.
The clashes erupted as Serbs, who make up the majority in northern Kosovo, boycotted last month’s early elections in which only representatives of Albanians or other smaller minorities were elected.
Vucic ordered an “urgent” troop move closer to the border and put the combat readiness of the Serbian armed forces on “highest alert” to protect Serbs.
“I will fight for every second of peace that lasts longer, but I say that in the first attack against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, Serbia will not stand idly by. Do you want to expel the Serbs? You will not expel them,” he said according to local media reports.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti defended his authorities’ actions, arguing that democratically elected officials have the right to take office without threats or intimidation.
“It is also the right of citizens to be served by elected officials. “Participation – not violent obstruction – is the right way to express political views in a democracy,” Kurti said on Twitter.
The US condemns the actions of Kosovo
However, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken strongly condemned the Kosovo government’s use of force to gain access to municipal buildings and called on Kurti to reverse that course of action.
“These actions have sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions, undermining our efforts to help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and will have consequences for our bilateral relations with Kosovo,” Blinken said in a statement on May 26.
“We call on Prime Minister Albin Kurti to reverse course and all sides to refrain from further actions that will inflame tensions and advance the conflict,” he added.
The embassies of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the EU in Kosovo, issued a joint statement on May 28 calling on the Kosovar authorities to show restraint.
“We warn all parties to avoid any threats or actions that could affect a secure environment, including freedom of movement, and cause tensions or promote conflict,” the statement said.
Vucic has already warned that his nation will respond to violence against Serbs and has raised combat readiness several times during moments of tension with Kosovo.
However, any attempt by Serbia to send its troops across the border would mean a conflict with NATO troops stationed there.
The United States has been Kosovo’s main supporter politically, militarily and economically since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbs in the northern region of Kosovo do not accept Serbia’s declaration of independence in 2008, nearly a decade after a war there ended, and still consider Belgrade their capital.
Source: Prime News