Kosovo PM Albin Kurti has doubled down on the decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in majority Serb areas. Separately, France’s Macron urged new elections.
The US, France and Germany increased diplomatic pressure on Serbia and Kosovo to resolve the dispute involving the Serb minority in Kosovo’s north on Thursday.
At a summit in Moldova, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Kosovo and Serbian leaders to organize new elections in northern Kosovo as soon as possible.
Macron said that Berlin and Paris asked for election rules in the new polls to be clarified.
Hours before, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on both sides to defuse tensions.
The comments come several days after Serbs in the northern Kosovo town of Zvecan clashed with soldiers of the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR outside of the town hall.
The following day, KFOR announced that it would send 700 additional peacekeepers to the territory.
Protesters were demonstrating against the assumption of office by ethnic Albanian mayors after local elections that were boycotted by most Serbs, who form the overwhelming majority of the population in four municipalities in Kosovo’s north.
What did Blinken say?
Washington called for the two parties to take “immediate steps” towards defusing the situation in northern Kosovo, and warned that the crisis was hindering both Belgrade’s and Pristina’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
“We call on the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions,” top US diplomat Blinken said during a press conference at a NATO summit in Norway.
“We’ve been very clear in our concerns about some of the recent actions that were taken. We’ve said that directly to the leaders involved including Prime Minister Kurti,” Blinken said.
Meanwhile, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that he will not back down from the decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in Serb-majority areas of northern Kosovo.
“Mayors should go and work in their officers,” Kurti told Kosovo Albanian media. “We need to have normality… What is the meaning of having public buildings for state officials if they are not used?”
Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani told Reuters at European Political Community (EPC) talks in Moldova that she believed that Serbia was working to destabilize Kosovo.
Speaking at the same summit, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that it was Pristina’s responsibility to de-escalate.
Incidents in northern Kosovo
Serb protesters gathered around the town hall in Zvecan, northern Kosovo on Thursday, four days after clashes with peacekeepers stationed in the town.
Around 70 protesters were at the gathering, substantially fewer than were present on previous days.
Also in Zvecan, a KFOR armored vehicle was parked near the road leading to the town hall. This was requested by a Kosovo Serb political party after masked protesters on Wednesday smashed windows on two police cars in the town center, injuring an officer.
Meanwhile, Kosovo police said two ethnic Albanian men were injured near a square in the divided city of Mitrovica.
“The victims were attacked by a group of criminals who were masked and organised for the attack,” the police statement read. The two men sustained “injuries and were sent for medical treatment,” police said.
Also on Thursday, several hundred citizens gathered in the southern part of Mitrovica, which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
Protesters carried Albanian flags and chanted “Mitrovica cannot be divided.”