The government in Belgrade accuses neighboring Kosovo of “provocations” by sending special police units to the border.
Serbian forces were on high alert after the government in Belgrade accused neighboring Kosovo of committing “provocations” by sending special police units to the border.
Already strained relations between Serbia and the former separatist region have worsened since the Albanian-led government there sent police units into an area populated mainly by ethnic Serbs, who reject the government’s authority in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.
The deployment came as hundreds of Serbs staged daily protests against the decision to require drivers with Serbian license plates to put up temporary license plates when entering Kosovo – a “reciprocal measure,” according to Pristina.
“No one here wants a conflict and I hope there will be no conflict,” said a 45-year-old demonstrator who gave his name as Leobo and was camped at the Yarengi border crossing.
We want Pristina to withdraw its forces and cancel the decision on the metal plates.”
Hundreds of Serbs in Kosovo protested and blocked truck traffic on the roads to two border crossings.
After his provocations [special police] The Ministry of Defense in Belgrade said in a statement that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had given the order to intensify the state of alert for some units of the Serbian army and police.
Serbian fighter jets were again seen flying over the border area on Sunday after several sorties on Saturday, AFP reported.
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, urged Serbia and Kosovo to de-escalate tensions “through the immediate withdrawal of special police units and the dismantling of roadblocks”.
“Any other provocations or unilateral and uncoordinated actions are unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
Serbia and Kosovo need to de-escalate the situation on the ground unconditionally. Any other provocations or unilateral or uncoordinated actions are unacceptable.
The EU-facilitated dialogue remains the only platform for addressing and resolving all open problems.
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) September 26, 2021
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke by phone with the President of Serbia and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti.
“It is vital that Belgrade and Pristina show restraint and return to dialogue,” he wrote on Twitter.
I have spoken with Tweet embed from # serbia & Tweet embed from #kosovo On the necessity of de-escalation in northern Kosovo. It is very important that Belgrade and Pristina show restraint and return to dialogue. Tweet embedThe company’s mandate remains to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all.
– Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) September 26, 2021
NATO forces have been deployed in Kosovo since the 1998-1999 Serbia-Kosova conflict.
Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 and sees Pristina’s decision on the plates as implying its status as a sovereign state.
Vucic expressed his regret that the international community did not react to the “complete occupation of northern Kosovo more than a week ago with Pristina armored vehicles.”
“And everyone was suddenly concerned when Serbian helicopters and planes were seen over central Serbia,” Vucic said in a statement, adding, however, that Serbia “will always act responsibly and seriously.”
On Saturday, Kurti accused Serbia of wanting to “provoke a serious international conflict”.
Early on Sunday, Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic visited troops at two military bases where they are on alert, including one a few kilometers from the border.
Belgrade defines the border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo as “administrative”.
Nor does Russia, Serbia’s ally, recognize Kosovo’s independence, but most Western countries, including the United States, do.
For its part, NATO member Albania, “worried about the escalation of the situation”, asked Belgrade to “withdraw the armed forces deployed on the border with Kosovo.”
Kosovo President Fjoza Osmani cut short a visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly “due to developments in the north of the country”.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence came after a decade of war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serb forces that killed 13,000 people, mostly Albanians.
The United States and the European Union have called for a de-escalation of tensions and for the two sides to return to normalization talks, which the European Union brokered nearly a decade ago.
The Serbian president said that the normalization process can only be resumed if Kosovo withdraws its special police forces from the north.