0 0
Advertisements
Read Time:3 Minute, 6 Second

NATO-led troops and police clashed with protesters in Northern Kosovo Monday amid an ongoing standoff between ethnic Albanian authorities and local ethnic Serbs who ignored warnings not to seize municipality buildings. 

The violence comes after Kosovo’s police raided Serb-dominated areas in the region’s north and seized local municipality buildings over the weekend. The demonstrations have led to injuries on both sides, which more than two dozen NATO troops injured. 

Serbia, which maintains close contact with ethnic Serbs, raised combat readiness of its troops stationed near the border and warned it would intervene if Serbs in Kosovo are attacked again. 

The increasingly chaotic situation has fueled fears of a renewal of the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left more than 1 million homeless.

POLISH PRESIDENT ANDRZEJ DUDA TO APPROVE CONTROVERSIAL BILL ROOTING OUT RUSSIAN INFLUENCE

The latest tensions are multiple-faceted, stemming from centuries of conflict. Kosovo is a mainly ethnic Albanian-populated territory that was formerly a province of Serbia. It declared independence in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood and still considers it part of Serbia. 

Despite having no formal control of Kosovo, Serbia cherishes the region as the heart of its statehood and religion. Meanwhile, ethnic Albanians, who make up the majority, view Kosovo as their country and accuse Serbia of occupation and repression. Ethnic Albanian rebels launched a rebellion in 1998 to rid the country of Serbian rule. Belgrade’s brutal response prompted a NATO intervention in 1999, which forced Serbia to pull out and cede control to international peacekeepers.

Over the years there have been constant tensions between the Kosovo government and the Serbs who live mainly in the north of the country and keep close ties with Belgrade. 

Attempts by the central government to impose more control in the Serb-dominated north are usually met with resistance from Serbs. There have been constant international efforts to find common ground between the two former wartime foes, but there has been no final comprehensive agreement so far.

Last month, Serbs boycotted local elections in northern Kosovo, where they represent a majority. Newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayors moved into their offices with the help of Kosovo’s riot police last Friday. Serbs tried to prevent them from taking over the premises, but the police fired tear gas to disperse them.

365 BELARUSIANS SANCTIONED BY POLAND OVER JOURNALIST’S ‘DRACONIAN’ JAIL SENTENCE

On Monday, Serbs staged a protest in front of the municipality buildings, triggering a tense standoff that resulted in fierce clashes between the Serbs and the Kosovo peacekeepers and local police.

Both Kosovo and Serbia are led by nationalist leaders who haven’t shown readiness for a compromise.

In Kosovo, Albin Kurti, a former student protest leader and political prisoner in Serbia, leads the government and is the main negotiator in EU-mediated talks. He was also known as a fierce supporter of Kosovo’s unification with Albania and is against any compromise with Serbia.

Serbia is led by populist President Aleksandar Vucic, who was information minister during the war in Kosovo. The former ultranationalist insists that any solution must be a compromise in order to last and says the country won’t settle unless it gains something.

International officials are hoping to speed up negotiations and reach a solution in the coming months. Officials fear the failure to reach a major breakthrough would mean prolonged instability, economic decline, and constant potential for clashes.

Any Serbian military intervention in Kosovo would mean a clash with NATO peacekeepers stationed there. Belgrade controls Kosovo’s Serbs, and Kosovo can’t become a member of the U.N. and a functional state without resolving the dispute with Serbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

About Post Author

Happy
0 0 %
Sad
0 0 %
Excited
0 0 %
Sleepy
0 0 %
Angry
0 0 %
Surprise
0 0 %