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Stoltenberg: Violence in Kosovo endangers Euro-Atlantic aspirations

2023-05-30 19:15:05, Kosova & Bota CNA
Stoltenberg: Violence in Kosovo endangers Euro-Atlantic aspirations
The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg

The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, announced that the North-Atlantic alliance will increase the number of troops in Kosovo by 700, within the framework of its mission, KFOR.

In a press conference with the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, he condemned the attacks that took place against the members of KFOR, on Monday in the north of Kosovo, and said that they are "unacceptable".

"We have decided to commit an additional 700 troops from the Operational Reserve Force to the Western Balkans, and to raise the readiness of an additional battalion of reserve forces to a high level, so that they can be deployed, if the need arises" .

According to Stoltenberg, violence is turning back Kosovo and the entire region, as well as endangering Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

"Prishtina and Belgrade must take concrete steps to reduce tensions, refrain from irresponsible behavior and engage in dialogue mediated by the EU, as the only way for long-term peace," he said.

Earlier in the day, the American ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, said that the Government of Kosovo has not coordinated with the United States for the actions taken in the north and, therefore, has suffered the first consequence: "the Defender Europe 2023 exercises have received end" for it".

He referred to the decision of the Government of Kosovo to install by force the Albanian mayors of the Serb-majority municipalities in the north of the country - Zveçan, Zubin Potok and Leposaviq - despite the constant resistance of local residents, which resulted in violence.

He quoted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who warned that these actions will affect US-Kosovo relations, and said that the cancellation of Kosovo's participation in the "Defender Europe 2023" exercises is the first consequence for the Government of Kosovo in this direction.

Since May 26, tensions have increased in the north of Kosovo, since on that same day, the new leaders of Zveçan, Leposaviq and Zubin Potok entered the municipal buildings under the escort of the Kosovo Police.

The head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, on May 30 asked Kosovo to suspend police operations around municipal buildings in the north, in order, according to him, to reduce tensions in this part.

Previously, the Government of Kosovo has defended its decision to take the new mayors to the municipal buildings, while for the violence in Zveçan it has blamed Belgrade for "leading the extremist crowd".

Kosovo's northern municipalities became tense after the mayors emerging from the April 23 emergency elections - all Albanians - were opposed by local Serbs.

On May 26, five policemen were injured during clashes with Serb protesters who threw stones at them. The police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

While on Monday, May 29, at least 25 soldiers of the peacekeeping mission of NATO in Kosovo, KFOR, were injured as a result of clashes with Serbian citizens in the municipality of Zveçan in the north of Kosovo.

The previous heads of the four municipalities in the north, North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zveçan and Leposaviq, inhabited by a majority of Serbs, were from Lista Serbe.

However, they resigned in November last year, as a sign of dissatisfaction with a decision of the Government of Kosovo to re-register cars with RKS - Republic of Kosovo license plates.

The elections of April 23 were boycotted by the Serbian List and by the Serbian majority population in the north, which now does not accept the results, namely the new presidents./ REL

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