BELGRADE (Serbia), June 23 (Xinhua) — Serbia reiterated on Friday that it will intervene militarily in its former province of Kosovo if the NATO-led peacekeeping force fails to protect the Serbian minority from what Belgrade says is a terrorist threat from Kosovo’s Albanian authorities. .
Serbian Army Chief of Staff General Milan Mojsilovic said in a brief televised address that Kosovo Serbs could no longer “tolerate” the “terror” of the Kosovo government and that the Serbian army was ready to carry out its tasks “according to regulations”. Comply with the Serbian Constitution and any order of President Aleksandar Vucic.
Serbia has put its army on maximum alert along the Kosovo border following a series of recent clashes between Kosovar Serbs and the Kosovo police and the NATO-led peacekeeping force (KFOR). In recent weeks, NATO has sent reinforcements amid fears of open conflict between Albanians and Serbs.
Serbia’s armed intervention in Kosovo would mean direct conflict with the roughly 4,000 NATO troops currently stationed there.
Serbia has been at odds with its former province of Kosovo for decades. The 1998-99 war killed more than 10,000 people, mostly Kosovar Albanians. Belgrade refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
Tensions flared again last month after Kosovo police seized local municipal buildings in Serb-majority northern Kosovo to install an ethnic-Albanian mayor elected in local elections overwhelmingly boycotted by Serbs.
The latest clashes centered on the arrest by Kosovo police of at least eight Serbs suspected of taking part in last month’s violent clashes with NATO forces and Kosovo police that left dozens wounded on all sides.
In a brief address to the nation on Friday, Serbia’s army chief said Kosovar Serbs could no longer “tolerate the terror of Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s regime”.
“Based on the facts, I informed the KFOR commander that we demand urgent measures to protect the Serbian people. This is our request to KFOR and other international organizations,” Mojsilovic said.
Meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo failed to achieve a breakthrough in emergency talks hosted by the European Union amid fears of renewed open conflict.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called rising ethnic tensions in northern Kosovo worrying.
“Despite yesterday’s crisis meeting, the escalation continues and is becoming dangerous,” he tweeted Friday. “We will not tolerate it.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg vowed Thursday that the alliance’s peacekeepers “will continue to act impartially” and increase their presence to ensure the environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.
Both Serbia and Kosovo are seeking to join the EU and need to normalize relations.
There are fears that Serbia’s ally, Russia, could spark another armed conflict in central Europe, diverting at least some international attention away from Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine. (Associated Press)
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