NATO to deploy additional troops in Kosovo

NATO announced on Tuesday the dispatch of new forces to Kosovo, where Serb protesters are still concentrated in front of the town hall of a municipality in the north of the territory, a day after clashes that left some 80 injured, both international soldiers and protesters.

“The deployment of additional NATO forces in Kosovo is a prudent move to ensure that KFOR (International Force for Kosovo) has the capabilities it needs to fulfill our UN Security Council mandate,” Admiral Stuart Munsch said. , commander of the Allied Command of Joint Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), based in Naples.

The US ambassador in Pristina, Jeffrey Jovenier, announced that he sanctioned Kosovo with its expulsion from a military exercise that runs from April to June with more than 20 countries in the region.

In Zvecan, NATO-led KFOR troops put up a barricade around the town hall on Tuesday to block access, an AFP journalist reported.

Three Kosovar police armored vehicles parked in front of the building.

outrage among Serbs

The presence of this force generates indignation among the Serbs, who represent 6% of the population of Kosovo and boycotted the April municipal elections in four towns in the north, where they are the majority.

Albanian mayors were elected in the elections, but with a participation of less than 3.5%.

These mayors, who are considered illegitimate by the Serb protesters, took office last week.

Tensions flared on Monday after Serbs tried to force their way into the Zvecan municipality, but were repelled by Kosovo police using tear gas.

disperse the crowd

KFOR international forces initially tried to separate the protesters from the police, but then proceeded to disperse the crowd using their shields and batons.

The protesters then responded by throwing rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers. More than 50 demonstrators were injured, three of them “seriously”, according to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

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The head of European Union (EU) diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called on the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia on Tuesday to “reduce tensions immediately” and without conditions.

The NATO secretary general on Tuesday condemned “unacceptable” attacks by Serb protesters against the Alliance peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

“We strongly condemn these unprovoked attacks against our troops in northern Kosovo,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“The violence pushed back Kosovo and the entire region” and “Pristina and Belgrade must take concrete steps for a de-escalation.”

The Serbian president met ambassadors from the Quintet, a group of five NATO member powers that closely watch the Western Balkans, in Belgrade on Tuesday, but announced he would also hold talks with representatives of Russia and China.

Russia called on the West to end “misleading propaganda about Kosovo.”

unprovoked attacks

KFOR forces said their soldiers responded “to unprovoked attacks by a violent and dangerous mob” and carried out their mandate impartially.

Kosovo police described the situation in the north on Tuesday as “fragile but calm” and called on citizens “not to give in to calls for violent protests and provocations.”

Belgrade has never recognized the independence of Kosovo proclaimed in 2008 by this former Serbian province.

Some 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, which has a population of 1.8 million, most of whom are Albanians.

“Pristina’s unilateral advances generate violence against the Serb community, which takes us away from lasting peace and stability in the region,” the Serbian president wrote on Instagram after meeting with Western diplomats.

“The departure of these false mayors and the members of what Pristina qualifies as the special forces are conditions for the preservation of peace in Kosovo,” he added.

On Monday, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic caused controversy by writing on a camera during Roland Garros, the tournament held in France, the message “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence.”

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