Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, made a statement on the events leading to increased tensions in northern Kosovo before his meeting with Montenegrin President Jakov Milatovic in Brussels.
Stating that the EU condemns all acts of violence, Borrell stated that they support NATO’s Kosovo Peacekeeping Force (KFOR).
Borrell stated that he had telephone conversations with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti this morning and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic last night and said, “I called on both sides to take the necessary measures to reduce tensions urgently and without preconditions. Any unilateral steps must be avoided and calm must be restored.”
For this, Borrell noted that in the first stage, they expect the operations of Kosovo police in the municipalities in the north of Kosovo to be stopped and the Serbian protesters to withdraw:
“The EU expects the parties to act responsibly and to return urgently to the EU-facilitated dialogue to find a lasting solution to ensure an environment that guarantees the security of citizens in northern Kosovo, paving the way for the implementation of the new agreement on normalization. I am working to organize an urgent high-level meeting for this purpose and I have asked Charles Fries, my Under-Secretary-General for Security and Defence, to go to Kosovo for this purpose and he is in Kosovo.”
Borrell also said that EU members had been briefed on the issue and discussed possible measures that could be taken today, “There has been enough violence in Europe. We cannot afford a new conflict. I hope that my words will be heard and that people will act accordingly.”
Kfor Announces 30 Soldiers Wounded In Kosovo
In the statement made by NATO’s Kosovo Peacekeeping Force (KFOR), it was reported that 11 of the soldiers injured in the clash between KFOR troops and Serbs protesting in front of Zveçan Municipality yesterday were Italian and 19 were Hungarian. The number of wounded soldiers was announced as 25 yesterday.
It was shared that the soldiers had fractures and burns caused by explosive materials on their bodies, and 3 Hungarian soldiers were wounded with firearms. It was noted that the soldiers who were wounded with firearms were not in life-threatening condition.
“KFOR peacekeepers prevented threats to the lives of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians to prevent clashes between the parties and minimize the risk of escalation,” said Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, Commander of the KFOR Mission. Both sides must take full responsibility for what happened and prevent escalation, instead of hiding behind false rhetoric.”
It was emphasized that KFOR will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure a secure environment in Kosovo based on the mandate given by the United Nations Security Council.
KFOR announced that 25 soldiers were wounded during yesterday’s protest in front of Zveçan Municipality during the control of the demonstrators.
Serbia’s Message To The International Community: “Now Is The Time To Protect Serbs In Kosovo”
On the other hand, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with the Ambassadors of the US, UK, France, Italy and Germany to Belgrade and the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Serbia in the capital Belgrade.
According to a statement by the Serbian President’s Office, Vucic spoke with these officials about the events in northern Kosovo.
President Vucic argued that “part of the international community continues to tolerate Pristina’s unilateral moves that lead to violence against Serbs and reduce the options for lasting peace and stability in the region.”
Claiming that NATO’s Kosovo Peacekeeping Force (KFOR) “does not protect Serbs” in the region in question, Vucic said, “It is high time for a part of the international community to react sharply, openly and clearly to Pristina’s policy and protect Serbs from increasingly strong pressure and violence, which is being carried out in front of the eyes of all mechanisms.”
Vucic expressed his regret for the KFOR members wounded in the region and said that the number of Serbs wounded was much higher.
Protests Are Organized
Serbs in northern Kosovo, where tensions have been rising in recent days, are organizing protests in Zveçan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic to prevent the inauguration of new Albanian mayors and to enter municipal buildings.
Demanding that the Kosovo Police withdraw from the municipal buildings and that the newly elected Albanian mayors not take office, Serbs tried to break through the police cordon and enter the municipal buildings yesterday.
Kosovo police and KFOR fenced off municipal buildings and increased the number of personnel in the area.
Tensions In Northern Kosovo
On May 26, there were also clashes between Kosovo Serbs and security forces in the municipalities of Leposavic, Zveçan and Zubin Potok in northern Kosovo, where mostly Serbs live.
It was stated that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the army to “be ready” and that members of the army moved to the Kosovo border.
While the candidates of Albanian political parties won the extraordinary local elections held in the region on April 23, the elections were boycotted by Kosovo Serbs, who constitute the majority in the region. The Kosovo Central Election Commission announced that only 1567 (3.47 percent) of the 45,95 registered voters in the region cast their ballots.