Serbia’s leader suggests ‘the most powerful move’ to resolve the flare-up of the ethnic tensions in northern Kosovo.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has called on Kosovo authorities to withdraw what he termed “alleged mayors” in northern Kosovo to defuse a crisis that has sparked violence.
Speaking on arrival at a European Political Community Summit in Moldova on Thursday, Vucic said such a step would be “the most powerful move” that could resolve the crisis.
Unrest in Kosovo’s north has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the region’s Serb-majority area after April elections boycotted by the Serbs, a move that led the United States and its allies to rebuke Pristina.
Meanwhile, Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani said on Thursday that Serbia needs to stop its activities aimed at destabilising Kosovo in order to end the violence in the north of the country.
“The challenge comes from Serbia, a country that still needs to come to terms with its past,” Osmani told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of the Moldova summit.
“The situation is tense, but we need to make sure that we restore rule of law in Kosovo and understand that the threat is coming from Serbia’s denial of Kosovo’s existence as a sovereign state.”
Osmani said Serbia was actively supporting “illegal structures” in Kosovo to destabilise the country from within.
“President Vucic needs to stop supporting criminal gangs if he truly wants peace,” she said. “He is yet to show that.”
Also on Thursday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell repeated that violence in Kosovo had to be condemned, adding he would continue to speak to the parties involved.
On the sidelines of the European summit in Moldova, Borrell said he had urged Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Slovakia on Wednesday to play his part in defusing the crisis, adding he hoped to convey the same message to Vucic in Moldova.
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, said on Thursday that the alliance was prepared to deploy more troops to Kosovo to quell the violence, adding that the first 700 reinforcement troops were on the way there.
“NATO will remain vigilant. We will be there to ensure a safe and secure environment, and also to calm down and reduce tensions”, he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Oslo.
NATO decided to boost its 4,000-strong mission in the region with 700 additional troops after 30 of its KFOR peacekeepers and 52 ethnic Serb protesters were hurt on Monday.
Stoltenberg called the violence against NATO troops “totally unacceptable” and said allies were readying more troops in case NATO needed to send additional reinforcements to the region.
“Our message both to Belgrade and to Pristina is that they have to engage in good faith in the EU-facilitated dialogue,” he added.