© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a joint news conference with former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Hungary’s President Katalin Novak, at the Hungarian-Serbian border barrier near Kelebia, Hungary, December 15, 2022. RE
BELGRADE (Reuters) – NATO’s mission in Kosovo, KFOR, has declined a Serbian government request to send up to 1,000 police and army personnel to Kosovo following a spate of clashes between Serbs and Kosovo authorities, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday.
Serbia’s former province of Kosovo declared independence in 2008 following the 1998-1999 war during which NATO bombed rump-Yugoslavia comprising Serbia and Montenegro to protect Albanian-majority Kosovo.
“They (KFOR) replied they consider that there is no need for the return of the Serbian army to Kosovo … citing the United Nations resolution approving their mandate in Kosovo,” Serbia’s Vucic said in an interview with the private Pink television.
Last month, for the first time since the end of the war, Serbia requested to deploy troops in Kosovo during a spate of clashes between Kosovo authorities and Serbs in the northern region where they constitute a majority.
The U. N. Security Council resolution states that Serbia may be allowed, if approved by the KFOR, to station its personnel at border crossings, Orthodox Christian religious sites and areas with Serb majorities.
Vucic criticised the KFOR for informing Serbia of its decision on the eve of the Christian Orthodox Christmas, after Kosovo police arrested an off-duty soldier suspected of shooting and wounding two young Serbs near the town of Shterpce.
Kosovo authorities condemned the incident.
Police said both victims, aged 11 and 21, were taken to hospital and their injuries were not life threatening.
Serbian media reported that another young man was allegedly attacked and beaten up by a group of Albanians early on Saturday as he was returning from mass at church.
Serbian officials labelled the incidents as “terrorist acts”, saying they demonstrated that Serbs were unwanted in Kosovo and announced protests in Shterpce on Sunday.
International organisations condemned the attacks, expected to deepen mistrust between majority ethnic Albanians and around 100,000 ethnic Serbs that live in Kosovo. Half of them live in the north and most refuse to recognise Kosovo’s independence.
The other half live in other parts of the country, such as Shterpce, and most recognise the Pristina government and take part in political life.