Thursday, February 9, 2023

Serbs block roads at peak of violence in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Kosovo ( Associated Press) — Kosovo police and local media reported explosions, gunfire and roadblocks overnight in the country’s north, where Serbs protested the postponement of December 18 municipal elections, where the majority of the population is ethnic Serb. Is. , No one was reported to be injured.

The European Union mission to uphold the rule of law, known as EULEX, also indicated that “a flash grenade was thrown at a EULEX reconnaissance patrol last night”, causing no injuries or material damage. Hui.

The EU contingent, consisting of 134 Polish, Italian and Lithuanian police officers stationed in the north of the country, called on “those responsible to avoid further provocations” and urged Kosovo’s institutions to “bring the perpetrators to justice”. did.

Unidentified masked men were seen cutting off major roads to the Serbian border and Kosovo authorities closed two border crossings to all traffic and pedestrians.

The situation was calm on Sunday morning, although there were more Kosovar Albanian police in mixed-population areas in the north and more police and troops elsewhere.

Recent tensions remain high, and the exchange of statements between Serbia and Kosovo has intensified.

Serbia’s president said Monday he would officially seek NATO permission to station Serbian troops in northern Kosovo, although he acknowledged that was highly unlikely.

Serbian officials say a 1999 UN resolution ended the country’s bloody crackdown on majority Kosovar Albanian separatists and allowed some 1,000 Serb troops to return to Kosovo. NATO bombed Serbia to end the war and pull its troops out of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

NATO-led peacekeepers, who have been operating in Kosovo since the war, would have to authorize the entry of Serb troops, something highly improbable as in practice it would mean handing over the security of Serb-populated northern areas of Kosovo to the Serbs. Have to hand over force, something that would greatly increase tensions in the Balkans.

“We do not want a 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 called on the European Union and the United States not to condemn such violence, which he said was organized by Belgrade, destabilizing Kosovo.

Tensions have risen in the north ahead of elections originally scheduled for December 18. The vote has been postponed to April 23 in an effort to ease tensions.

The vote was called after ethnic Serbs resigned in November in protest against the Kosovar government’s decision to ban Serb vehicle license plates.

Serbian legislators, prosecutors and police officers also left their positions in local governments.

Despite efforts by US and EU officials to reduce hostilities, tensions have remained high in Kosovo since its declaration of independence. Serbia, backed by allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo as a state.

Serbia and Kosovo both want to join the European Union, but Brussels has warned they must resolve their differences and normalize ties before applying for membership.

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Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Nation World News Desk
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