NATO on Saturday called on Kosovo to reduce tensions with Serbia, a day after government officials entered municipal buildings to install mayors in areas of the country’s north, mainly inhabited by ethnic Serbs, Reuters reports.
Clashes on Friday between Kosovo police and Serb protesters opposing the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors prompted Serbia to put its army on alert and move units closer to the border.
“We urge the institutions in Kosovo to de-escalate the situation immediately and we call on all parties to resolve the issues through dialogue,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a post on Twitter.
According to Lungescu, KFOR, the peacekeeping mission led by NATO in Kosovo, where 3,800 people are active, will remain on alert.
Things are still tense in the northern part of the country, where armed police forces are guarding municipal buildings.
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti defended the actions of the police, who the previous day escorted the elected mayors to take their mandates.
“It is the right of those elected in democratic elections to assume their position without threats or intimidation. It is also the right of citizens to be served by those elected officials,” Kurti said on Twitter on Saturday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday criticized Kurti’s government for its actions in the north, saying it had “needlessly escalated tensions and undermined efforts to help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. These actions will have consequences on our bilateral relations with Kosovo”.
Nearly a decade after the end of the war, Serbs in the northern region of Kosovo do not accept the 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still regard Belgrade as their capital.
Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90% of Kosovo’s population, with Serbs in the majority only in the northern region.
Editor: Liviu Cojan