NATO-led peacekeeping mission’s statement comes after Kosovo Serbs protested again in front of 3 municipalities to prevent Albanian mayors from entering town halls
The NATO-led international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) on Monday urged Serbian and Kosovar authorities to de-escalate tensions in northern municipalities populated by ethnic Serbs.
A KFOR’s statement came as tensions between Belgrade and Pristina rose on Friday after police in Kosovo clashed with local Serbs who gathered in front of a municipal building to prevent the newly elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office.
Kosovo Serbs protested again on Monday in front of the municipality buildings of Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic in the northern Mitrovica District, trying to stop newly elected Albanian mayors from entering the town halls on the day of their swearing-in ceremonies.
”We call on all sides to refrain from actions that could inflame tensions or cause escalation. In line with its mandate, KFOR is ready to take all necessary actions to ensure a safe environment in a neutral and impartial manner.
”KFOR urges Belgrade and Pristina to engage in the EU-led dialogue to reduce tensions and as the only way to peace and normalization,” said the statement.
Police and KFOR fenced town halls and increased staff numbers in the area to avert any untoward incidents.
”The NATO-led KFOR mission has increased its presence in four Municipalities of northern Kosovo, following the latest developments in the area. The aim of KFOR’s presence is to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement,” said the statement.
On Friday, tensions between Belgrade and Pristina rose after police in Kosovo clashed with local Serbs who gathered in front of the municipal building to prevent the newly elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office.
Last month, Kosovo Serbs boycotted extraordinary local government elections for four municipalities in the country’s north. Only 3.47% of eligible voters cast ballots, according to the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ).
After the elections, the EU said in a statement that low turnout did not provide municipalities with long-term political solutions.
Police in riot gear were deployed around the premises, along with the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and KFOR personnel.
Stun grenades and tear gas were used, which caused injuries to at least 10 people after a police vehicle was set on fire and automatic gunfire was heard, according to media reports.
Later, Serbia ordered its army to advance to the border with Kosovo and urged NATO to “stop the violence against local Serbs in Kosovo.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also urged the army and security forces to be combat-ready.
Kosovo Serbs on Saturday called on Vucic to suspend the ongoing dialogue process for normalizing relations with Kosovo, whose 2008 independence neighboring Serbia has never recognized.