From the Archives: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Paris, France, 06 October 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON / POOL

US Secretary calls on Kosovo and Serbia to Reduce Tensions in North

The US Secretary, Antony Blinken, has condemned the violence against KFOR soldiers and the "escalating" actions in the north of Kosovo, and invited parties to deescalate the situation.

Secretary Blinken has called on Kosovo and Serbia to take immediate action to reduce tensions in the northern region of Kosovo, in a press release on Tuesday.

“We call on all parties to take immediate action to de-escalate tensions. The United States condemns the unacceptable violence yesterday against NATO-led KFOR troops, law enforcement, and journalists,” stated Blinken.

In his reaction, Blinken blamed the Government of Kosovo for the situation created in the north.

“The Government of Kosovo’s decision to force access to municipal buildings sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions. Prime Minister Kurti and his government should ensure that elected mayors carry out their transitional duties from alternate locations outside municipal buildings and withdraw police forces from the vicinity,” he added.

The US Secretary also reacted to the authorities in Serbia.

“President Vucic and the Government of Serbia should lower the security status of Serbian Armed Forces and urge Kosovo Serbs to halt challenges to KFOR and refrain from further violence,” the statement read.

According to Blinken, both Kosovo and Serbia should immediately recommit to engaging in the EU-facilitated Dialogue to normalize relations.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, stated in an interview with CNN on Tuesday that he will not withdraw the Kosovo Police from the north as long as there are violent groups on the streets.

“As long as there are violent mobs outside the buildings, I can’t just have a few policemen. I need to have police who will protect the rule of law, maintain order, peace, and security. Municipalities should be for everyone, not only for the parallel structures of Serbia that have turned into criminal gangs, especially this year,” Kurti explained.

The American Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, has officially confirmed that Kosovo has been excluded from the “Defender 23” exercise as a sanction in response to recent developments in the North.

Ambassador Hovenier held a press conference on Tuesday in Kosovo, where he stated that he urgently requested PM Albin Kurti to withdraw the Kosovo Police completely from the three municipal buildings in the northern part of the country: Zubin Potok, Leposavic, and Zvecan.

“We will cease all efforts to assist Kosovo in gaining recognition from states that have not recognized Kosovo and in the process of integration into international organizations,” Ambassador Hovenier announced.

DEFENDER 23 is a US European Command directed multinational joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the US and NATO allies and partners. Defender Europe ’23, which was planned to take place on Tuesday in Kosovo, was canceled due to the tension in the north. This exercise was the largest and most effective exercise for Kosovo and the FSK.

On Monday, dozens of protesters and NATO peacekeepers were injured in northern Kosovo as local Serbs protested against the installation of a Kosovo Albanian mayor.

30 troops of KFOR were wounded, 11 soldiers from the Italian contingent and 19 from the Hungarian contingent.

Serbian media reported that more than 53 people suffering from different types of injuries, from shock bombs and tear gas, have been treated at North Mitrovica hospital. The hospital director, Zlatan Elek, told regional broadcaster N1 that three of them are still hospitalized, including one with life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Kosovo Police confirmed that five protesters have been arrested for the attacks against KFOR troops and the damages caused to many military, police, and media outlet vehicles.

KFOR has strongly condemned the unprovoked attack against the troops of the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Zvecan on Monday.

31/05/2023 - 12:39

31 May 2023 - 12:39

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