The Belgrade government has accused the neighboring Kosovo of “inciting” by sending special police units to the border.
Serbian troops are on high alert after the Belgrade government sent a special police unit to the border and accused neighboring Kosovo of being “provocative”.
Tensions between Serbia and its former breakaway region have already worsened, with the Albanian-led government there sending police units to populated areas of predominantly ethnic Serbs, who reject government authority in the Kosovo capital, Pristina.
According to Pristina, the deployment comes as hundreds of ethnic Serbs protested daily against the decision to temporarily install Serbian registration plate drivers upon entry into Kosovo – a “mutual measure”.
“No one wants a clash here and I hope there will be no clashes,” said a 45-year-old protester who identified himself as Luzo and camped at the Jaringen border crossing.
“We want Pristina to withdraw her forces and overturn the decision of the license plate.”
Hundreds of Serbs in Kosovo have been protesting and blocking traffic at two border crossings.
“After provoked by [special police] UNIT: Serbian President Alexander Vusic has ordered increased vigilance for some Serbian army and police units, “Belgrade’s defense ministry said in a statement.
According to the AFP news agency, Serbian warplanes could be seen flying again in the border area on Sunday after a series of sorties on Saturday.
EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell called on Serbia and Kosovo to reduce tensions by “immediately withdrawing special police units and lifting roadblocks”.
“No further provocation or unilateral and unrestrained action is acceptable,” he said in a statement.
Serbia and Kosovo need to unconditionally stabilize the situation. Any other provocative, one-sided or unrestrained action is unacceptable.
EU-facilitated dialogue remains the only platform to address and resolve all open issues.
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (oseJosepBorrellF) September 26, 2021
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken by phone with Serbian President and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
He tweeted, “Both Belgrade and Pristina are very important to show restraint and return to dialogue.”
I talked @avucic Of # Serbia & bAlbinkurti Of #Kosovo About the need for a de-escalator north of Kosovo. It is important for both Belgrade and Pristina to show restraint and return to dialogue. AT NATO_KeforeThe mandate remains to ensure a safe and secure environment for all and freedom of movement.
– Jens Stoltenberg (ensjensstoltenberg) September 26, 2021
NATO troops have been deployed in Kosovo since the 1998-99 Serbian-Kosovo conflict.
Belgrade 200 does not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 and Pristina’s decision on the license plate signifies her status as a sovereign state.
Vusik lamented the lack of response from the international community for the “rough occupation of northern Kosovo for more than a week by Pristina armored vehicles”.
“And when Serbian helicopters and planes are spotted in central Serbia, everyone is suddenly worried,” Vusic said in a statement, but Serbia “will always behave responsibly and seriously.”
On Saturday, Kurti accused Serbia of seeking to “provoke serious international conflict”.
Earlier on Sunday, Serbian Defense Minister Nebosa Stefanovic visited troops at two military bases where they were on high alert, one of them just a few kilometers from the border.
Belgrade has designated the border crossing between Serbia and Kosovo as “administrative”.
Serbia’s ally Russia also does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, but most Western countries, including the United States, do.
NATO member Albania, “concerned about the escalation of the situation”, called on Belgrade to “withdraw the armed forces deployed on the Kosovo border”.
Kosovo President Vajosa Osmani has canceled a visit to New York at the UN General Assembly “due to the country’s development in the north”.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence came after a decade of fighting between Eleanor Albanian fighters and Serbian forces that killed 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians.
The United States and the European Union have called for a reduction in tensions and for both sides to return to normalcy talks, which the EU has mediated for nearly a decade.
The Serbian president said the normalization process could begin only if special police forces withdraw from Kosovo North.