Serbia will ask KFOR for permission to intervene in Kosovo, Vucic says

20 Maj 2024, 11:28Kosovo & Region TEMA

Serbia will ask KFOR for permission to intervene in Kosovo, Vucic says

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he will ask a NATO-led international peacekeeping force to permit the deployment of Serbian military and police into neighboring Kosovo, an unprecedented move that will likely escalate already-high tensions between the two Balkan nations.

Vucic made his comments on December 10 as ethnic Serbs in Kosovo protested the arrest of a comrade and former police officer on terrorism and other charges by blocking roads in several regions in northern Kosovo.

Vucic said Serbia has the right to send in its forces based on the 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

The Serbian leader said that the 4,000-strong international peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, has been unable to maintain calm in the ethnic-Serb regions of Northern Kosovo and that his government will make its request as early as next week.

Though he did not give any details on the size of the force he would seek, Serbian officials previously said that they will ask for 1,000 members of the armed forces and police to enter Kosovo.

Vucic said he expected KFOR to reject his request but said it was important to try “so that they won't be able to say that we never asked for it.”

The NATO mission in Kosovo has not responded to an RFE/RL request for comment on the situation.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti immediately fired back, accusing Vucic of creating a crisis to undermine a new EU-led peace proposal that Belgrade doesn’t want to sign.

His government also closed two border crossings in the north with Serbia due to “security reasons.”

The executive director of Belgrade's nongovernmental Council for Strategic Policies, Nikola Lunic, told RFE/RL that statements from Belgrade are “aimed at internal political opinion but quite dangerous.”

He said it "awakens all the nationalist instincts of our people."

Arsim Bajrami, professor of constitutional law at the University of Pristina, told RFE/RL Kosovo's territorial integrity is guaranteed by the declaration of independence and the constitution of Kosovo that was upheld by the International Court of Justice.

Serbian forces haven’t been present in Kosovo, a nation comprised largely of ethnic Albanians, since they were driven out by NATO forces in 1999 in an attempt to end the bloodshed.

The UN later set up KFOR to maintain peace.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 with many ethnic Serbs falling within its northern boundaries, laying the ground for disturbances that have become periodic over the past 14 years.

While more than 100 countries recognize Kosovo as an independent state, Belgrade -- backed by ally Russia -- is outspoken in its rejection of Kosovar sovereignty.

The latest trouble began last month when hundreds of ethnic Serb police officers, judges, and local officials quit their jobs in Northern Kosovo to protest Pristina’s demand that local motorists register their cars with Kosovar license plates, instead of the old Serbian-era plates favored by some Serb nationalists.

Belgrade flamed tensions by promising to pay some of those who quit.

Pristina was forced to announce new elections on December 18 for mayors of four Serb-majority municipalities in Northern Kosovo after the incumbents quit.

It also had to send in ethnic Albanian police officers to fill the empty positions in Northern Kosovo with one allegedly attacked by ethnic Serbs.

A group of ethnic Serbs attacked several offices of the elections commission in Northern Kosovo on December 6 to disrupt the upcoming vote.

One of the alleged perpetrators, Dejan Pantic, an ethnic Serb who had recently quit his job as a police officer, was arrested on December 10 and charged with terrorism and violating the nation’s constitutional order.

Later in the day, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani announced she was postponing elections in the Serbia-dominated regions until next April.
The Quint, an informal decision-making group consisting of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, approved the postponement.

In the meantime, the Biden administration is taking steps to resolve the tension.

It will be sending Derek Chollet, U.S. state department counselor, and Gabriel Escoba, deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing the Balkans, to Kosovo and Serbia next week. (Radio Free Europe)

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