Serbia’s president says Belgrade seeks to deescalate situation in Kosovo
BELGRADE — Serbia demands the release of all arrested Serbs from northern Kosovo, but also seeks to defuse tensions there following tensions in the restive region, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday.
After a meeting of the National Security Council, Vucic said Kosovo Serbs must not engage in violence against NATO troops and members of the European Union mission there.
“No one, under no circumstances should be involved in attacks … on Eulex and KFOR,” he told Reuters in his office in Belgrade.
Vucic declined to elaborate on the steps the National Security Council adopted. Asked whether Belgrade would seek to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo, he replied: “Absolutely.”
Serb protesters in northern Kosovo blocked main roads on Saturday after the arrest of a former Serb policeman. Kosovo police later came under small-arms fire in several locations and a stun grenade was thrown at a car belonging to the EU mission in Kosovo. There were no injuries.
Following the flareup, EU, the United States, and NATO asked for restraint by both parties and demanded the removal of barricades.
Vucic accused authorities in Pristina and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti of stoking tensions by making “countless unilateral moves.”
“Whenever one would think we have something solved, another problem emerges,” Vucic said.
Serb mayors in northern Kosovo municipalities, along with local judges and some 600 police officers, resigned last month in protest over a Kosovo government move to replace Belgrade-issued car license plates with ones issued by Pristina.
Kosovo later agreed to postpone the decision and Belgrade said it will stop issuing new Serbian car numbers.
Vucic demanded the release of recently arrested Kosovo Serbs “as they are held on trumped-up charges” and the pullout of Kosovo police, in line with an EU-brokered agreement that stipulates consent of Serb mayors in the area for that.
“Kosovo police has nothing to do in the north … , especially people armed … up to their teeth,” he said. “That causes uneasiness and fear among the Serb population.”
On Saturday, Vucic said Belgrade would ask KFOR to let Serbia deploy military and police in Kosovo, but acknowledged there was no chance of permission being granted.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following the 1998-99 war in which NATO intervened to protect Albanian majority Kosovo.
Belgrade and Pristina are holding talks in Brussels to try to normalize relations and the EU has already presented a plan.
Kosovo police exchange fire with local Serbs blocking roads
NATO ready to step up forces if Serbia-Kosovo tensions escalate
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