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World News

Serbian border troops to maintain highest state of alert after ethnic clashes inside Kosovo

Belgrade, Serbia — Serbia on Saturday condemned NATO-led peacekeepers stationed in neighboring Kosovo for their alleged failure to end “brutal actions” by Kosovar police against ethnic Serbs, and said its armed forces stationed near the border would remain on the highest state of alert until further notice. .

Serbia’s top political and security leaders, led by President Aleksandar Vucic, met in Belgrade on Saturday following violent clashes the previous day between Kosovo police and ethnic Serbs that injured more than a dozen people.

In response to the clashes, Vucic on Friday ordered troops to move closer to the border with Kosovo.

“Due to the brutal use of force by (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti and his forces against the Serbian people in Kosovo…the Armed Forces of the Republic of Serbia will remain at the highest level of combat readiness “said a statement after the meeting of senior Serbian leaders on Saturday.

The statement also says that an international civilian mission and NATO-led troops, stationed in the former Serbian province since Serbian troops were forced out of the area in 1999, “have not done their job”. to protect the Serbs.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Longescu urged “Kosovo institutions to defuse immediately” and called on all parties “to resolve the situation through dialogue”.

She said on Twitter that NATO “remains vigilant & will ensure a safe and a secure environment” in Kosovo.

On Friday, ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, who are the majority in that part of the country, tried to block newly elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. Snap local elections last month were widely boycotted by ethnic Serbs and only ethnic Albanians or other representatives of smaller minorities were elected to mayorships and assemblies.

Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and let the new officials into the offices. Several cars were set on fire.

The United States and several Western countries have condemned the Kosovo government for using police to forcibly allow entry into municipal buildings. Kosovar Prime Minister Kurti on Saturday defended the police action.

“It is the right of those elected in democratic elections to perform their duties without threats or intimidation,” Kurti said on Twitter. “It is also the right of citizens to be served by these elected officials. Participation – not violent obstruction – is the right way to express political opinions in a democracy.

This is not the first time that Vucic has warned that Belgrade would react to violence against Serbs, and he has stepped up his combat readiness several times during the tense moments with Kosovo. However, any attempt by Serbia to send its troops across the border would mean a clash with the NATO troops stationed there.

The conflict in Kosovo erupted in 1998 when separatist ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbian rule, and Serbia responded with brutal repression. About 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died.

The NATO military intervention in 1999 finally forced Serbia to withdraw from the territory. Washington and most EU countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, but Serbia, Russia and China have not.


Writer AP Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

ABC News

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