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NATO declines Serbia’s request to deploy its troops in Kosovo amid ongoing tensions

NATO’s mission in Kosovo, KFOR, has declined a Serbian government request to send up to 1,000 police and army personnel to Kosovo after clashes between Serbs and the Kosovo authorities, President Aleksandar Vučić said on Sunday, local time.

Key points:

  • KFOR says the Serbian army does not need to return to Kosovo
  • Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, criticizes KFOR for informing Serbia on the eve of the Christian Orthodox Christmas
  • Thousands of Serbs are peacefully protesting against violence in Kosovo

Serbia’s former province of Kosovo declared independence in 2008 after the 1998-1999 war, during which NATO bombed the rump of Yugoslavia — comprising Serbia and Montenegro — to protect Albanian-majority Kosovo.

“[KFOR] replied they consider that there is no need for the return of the Serbian army to Kosovo … citing the United Nations resolution approving their mandate in Kosovo,” Mr Vučić said in an interview with the private Pink television.

Last month, for the first time since the end of the war, Serbia requested to deploy troops in Kosovo in response to clashes between Kosovo authorities and Serbs in the northern region, where they constitute a majority.

The UN Security Council resolution says Serbia may be allowed, if approved by KFOR, to station its personnel at border crossings, Orthodox Christian religious sites and areas with Serb majorities.

Mr Vučić criticized KFOR for informing Serbia of its decision on the eve of the Christian Orthodox Christmas, after Kosovo police arrested an off-duty soldier suspected of shooting and wounding two young Serbs near the southern town of Shterpce.

Police said both victims, aged 11 and 21, were taken to hospital and their injuries were not life-threatening.

Kosovo authorities condemned the incident, which has inflamed tensions.

On Sunday, a few thousand Serbs protested peacefully in Shterpce against what they called “violence against Serbs”.

Goran Rakic ​​— the head of the Serb List, the main Serb party in Kosovo — accused Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti of trying to drive out Serbs.

“His goal is to create such conditions so that Serbs leave their homes,” Mr Rakic ​​told the crowd.

“My message is that we must not surrender.”

Serbian media reported that another young man was allegedly attacked and beaten up by a group of Albanians early on Saturday, while media in Pristina reported that a Kosovo bus going to Germany through Serbia was attacked and its windscreen broken with rocks later that same day.

International organizations condemned the attacks, which are expected to deepen mistrust between majority ethnic Albanians and around 100,000 ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo.

Half of them live in the north and most refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Serbia doesn’t recognize the 2008 declaration of independence of its former province, while Western efforts to mediate a solution so far have failed.(AP: Serbian Defense Ministry Press Service)

Reuters

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