EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday that the bloc will not tolerate any escalation in northern Kosovo, near the border with Serbia.
“Despite yesterday’s crisis meeting, escalation continues and is becoming dangerous. We will not tolerate it,” Borrell said on social media. “Very alarmed by the situation in the north of Kosovo: extrajudicial arrests of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Security Forces marching in South Mitrovica; followed by heavy rhetoric from Serbia.”
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said Friday’s exercises by the Kosovo Security Force in South Mitrovica are routine.
“Annually planned activity, of which KFOR was fully informed. It consisted of 215 soldiers going from the Minatori garrison to Frasher and back. Disinformation is dangerous and unacceptable,” he said regarding a march.
About 200 soldiers of the Kosovo Security Force marched in the southern part of Mitrovica, where mostly Albanians reside.
Many on social media claimed soldiers were heading to the north where Serbs are living.
After Albanians, Serbs are Kosovo’s biggest ethnic group, especially in the north, next to Serbia. Serbia has never recognized the 2008 independence of Kosovo.
EU says new elections needed
The European Union urged Kosovo on Thursday to suspend police operations in northern Serb-dominated municipalities and announce new snap local elections.
The move came after a meeting in Brussels between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kurti to find a solution to current tensions as part of EU-facilitated talks.
Together with Miroslav Lajcak, the EU special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Borrell met the parties in separate meetings.
After the April elections in northern Kosovo, the EU said the low turnout among local Serbs did not provide municipalities with long-term political solutions.
Ethnic Serbs have been protesting the election of the mayors since late May.
On May 30, NATO decided to deploy 700 more troops to KFOR, the alliance-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, after 30 of its soldiers were injured amid unrest. A contingent of Turkish troops was among the reinforcements.
Tensions on border
Tensions were sparked following Kosovo’s detention of one of the organizers of a May 29 attack on NATO’s peacekeeping force, which was deployed amid Serb unrest over the installation of the ethnic Albanian mayors.
Serbia detained three Kosovo police officers last week, saying they were “planning an action in Serbia.” But Kosovo claimed that its officers had been kidnapped.
The EU requires Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final agreement and resolve disputes to progress in their integration with the bloc.
Most UN member states — including the US, UK, France, Germany and Türkiye — recognized Kosovo as a country separate from its neighbor when Pristina declared independence 15 years ago, but Belgrade continues to regard it as its territory.