Serbian President Vucic pledges to ensure peace amid simmering ethnic tensions in Kosovo
Following a meeting of Serbia’s National Security Council, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has vowed to maintain peace but claims his army is ready to protect minority Serbs living in neighbouring Kosovo.
Speaking after the meeting with Serbia’s national television channel RTS, Vucic said “we have taken certain measures to protect our homeland.”
“I have issued orders and the National Security Council has accepted them. I am very proud of our soldiers and policemen. Before they receive orders … we will try for a million times to preserve peace,” he said.
Tensions remain high in northern Kosovo, between the authorities in Kosovo’s capital Pristina and ethnic Serbs.
Roads were blocked with heavy vehicles and trucks by Serb protesters, ostensibly after the arrest of a former Kosovo Serb police officer on Saturday.
The policeman in question was part of a mass resignation of Serbs from the force in November after Pristina said it would require Serbs to scrap Serbian licence plates dating to before the 1998-99 Kosovo War that led to independence.
There was also an incident in which Serb protesters threw a stun grenade at an armoured vehicle of EULEX, an EU mission tasked with patrolling northern Kosovo. No one was injured.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti described the protesters as “criminal gangs” and asked the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) to remove the barricades.
Kurti also accused Serbia of attempting to sabotage EU-mediated dialogue on normalising bilateral ties and take it to the United Nations Security Council, where Serbia could seek support from allies Russia and China.
Vucic says he will ask the NATO-led force to permit the deployment of 1,000 Serb troops in the Serb-populated north of Kosovo, claiming they are being harassed there. It’s a request most certain to be turned down as it would contravene the two-decade-old peace agreement.
Tensions have been high in Kosovo ever since it proclaimed independence from Serbia, despite attempts by the EU and US officials to defuse them.
Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo’s statehood.