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incidents between the police and Serbs in the north of the country

Kosovar police on Friday dispersed with tear gas Serbs protesting against the taking office of Albanian mayor in northern Kosovo, a region of this former province of Serbia where they are in the majority. In response, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the military to be on “high alert”.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the army on Friday May 26 to be placed on “maximum alert”, as has happened many times in recent years, due to tensions with Kosovo. Earlier in the day, clashes erupted between police and Serb demonstrators in a Serb-majority town in northern Kosovo. The latter were protesting against the taking office of Albanian mayors in this border region.

These city councilors were appointed following the local elections organized by the Kosovo authorities on 23rd April in four municipalities mostly populated by Serbs who very largely boycotted this election: only some 1,500 voters, out of approximately 45,000 registered voters, took part.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “strongly condemned” the decision of the Kosovo authorities to appoint these city officials despite warnings from the European Union and the United States. “These measures have wantonly heightened tensions, undermining our efforts to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia and will have consequences in our bilateral relations with Kosovo,” Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany also called on Kosovo “to reverse their decision immediately” and “to calm the situation”.

In a joint statement, these states said they were “concerned by Serbia’s decision to raise the level of readiness of its armed forces on the border with Kosovo”. They called on “all parties to exercise maximum restraint, avoiding inflammatory speeches”.

Several injured

According to an AFP journalist, scuffles between Serb demonstrators and the police first took place in front of Zvecan town hall. The security forces fired tear gas to repel the protesters, while explosions were caused by stun grenades.

In videos posted on social networks, we also hear gunshots.

A dozen people were slightly injured and received medical treatment in a hospital in the northern part of the divided city of Mitrovica, said the deputy director of this establishment, Danica Radomirovic, quoted by Kosovar media. At least one police car was damaged, according to the same sources.

Security forces also used tear gas to disperse protesters in two other municipalities, Leposavic and Zubin Potok, Serbian national television (RTS) reported. Serbs erected barricades near Leposavic, RTS added.

An “association of Serbian municipalities”

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the army to be on “maximum alert” and also to “move” in the direction of the border with this former Serbian province, said announced the RTS.

The Kosovo police did not comment on the latest incidents, only confirming in a statement that they assisted the new mayors in taking office in three of the four municipalities concerned.

Fever flare-ups are frequent in the north of Kosovo, a former Serbian province which declared its independence in 2008, never recognized by Serbia.

The Serbs are encouraged by Belgrade to challenge the Kosovar authorities, who are seeking to establish their sovereignty over the whole territory.

The municipal elections took place just over a month after the European Union announced an agreement on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina during a meeting in Ohrid, North Macedonia, but that both parties have not signed.

To move forward in this dialogue, Belgrade is calling for the establishment of an “association of Serb municipalities”, which would enjoy a kind of autonomy and would bring together some 120,000 Serbs from Kosovo, a country with a population of 1.8 million. inhabitants, overwhelmingly Albanian.

With AFP

France 24 Europe Fr Trans

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