NATO probing taking pictures incident in tense Kosovo north

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo stated Monday they have been investigating a taking pictures incident in a tense northern area, urging calm as Serbia’s prime army officers inspected their troops on the border with Kosovo in a present of fight readiness.

The incident on Sunday night came about in Zubin Potok, a city in northern Kosovo the place native ethnic Serbs have been manning street barricades for the previous two weeks and the place tensions have been operating excessive between the 2 former wartime foes.

The peacekeepers, often known as KFOR, stated the incident occurred in shut proximity of one in all their patrols, involving unknown folks. A press release stated nobody was injured and “we are working to establish all the facts.”

Serbia’s protection minister and the military’s chief of employees traveled to the border with Kosovo, praising the fight readiness of Serbian troops and their firepower, together with howitzers and different army {hardware}. Serbia, which has been armed by Russian donations and army purchases, has been sabre rattling and threatening drive in opposition to its former province for a very long time.

Kosovo stays a possible flashpoint within the Balkans years after the 1998-99 struggle that ended with NATO intervention. Serbia doesn’t acknowledge the 2008 declaration of independence of its former province, whereas Western efforts to mediate an answer to this point have failed.

“It is important for all involved to avoid any rhetoric or actions that can cause tensions and escalate the situation,” KFOR stated in an announcement. “We expect all actors to refrain from provocative shows of force and to seek the best solution to ensure the safety and security of all communities.”

Fears of violence have soared for the reason that begin of Russia’s struggle in Ukraine. America and most European Union international locations have acknowledged Kosovo’s independence, whereas Serbia has relied on Russia and China in its bid to keep up declare on the province.

Tensions in Kosovo have risen additional in current weeks and months over a number of points amid worldwide efforts to step up mediation efforts. Most just lately, ethnic Serbs within the north put up roadblocks in protest of an arrest of a former Serb police officer.

Serbs within the north beforehand had walked out of Kosovo’s establishments, claiming harassment by Kosovo authorities. Belgrade repeatedly has warned it will defend native Serbs “with all means” if they’re attacked.

Kosovo’s authorities has requested NATO troops — which deployed in 1999 after the trans-Atlantic alliance bombed Serbia into leaving Kosovo — to take away the Serb roadblocks. Prime Minister Albin Kurti, KFOR commander Main Common Angelo Michele Ristuccia and Lars-Gunnar Wigermark, who heads an EU legislation and order mission, met on Monday to debate the state of affairs, KFOR stated on Twitter.

Kurti’s workplace stated that “the common conclusion from this meeting is that freedom of movement should be restored and that there should be no barricades on any road.”

Serbia on Sunday held a top-level assembly after the taking pictures incident, with the military chief of employees later heading to the southern city of Raska, close to Kosovo, the place Serbian military troops are positioned. Native media carried a video with photographs and shouts heard, however not exhibiting clearly what occurred at one of many barricades.

Gen. Milan Mojsilovic advised native media that the military obtained “clear and precise” instructions from Serbia’s populist president, Aleksandar Vucic. Mojsilovic described the state of affairs as “serious,” including that it requires the “presence of the Serbian army along the administrative line” with Kosovo, state RTS tv reported.

Serbian military autos might be seen on the roads within the space on Monday, and the Balkan nation’s protection minister additionally arrived. Serbian Protection Minister Milos Vucevic, Gen. Mojsilovic and different senior military officers mentioned the safety state of affairs throughout a gathering in Raska, a protection ministry assertion stated.

Serbia has requested KFOR to deploy as much as 1,000 of its troops within the Serb-populated north of Kosovo, to guard Kosovo Serbs from alleged harassment by ethnic Albanians, who’re the bulk within the nation. The request to this point hasn’t been granted.

Including to the tensions, Serbian Patriarch Porfirije was denied entry into Kosovo at a border crossing on Monday, after saying he want to ship a peace message for Serbian Orthodox Christmas, which is well known on Jan. 7.

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