While international attention remains focused on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, another potential war is brewing in Europe as tensions between two longtime enemies in the Balkans reach dangerous heights.
Last week, a Kosovo Albanian police sergeant and three heavily armed Serb attackers were killed in a deadly shootout in northern Kosovo in which at least one prominent Serbian politician admitted taking part. Days later, the United States issued a stark warning over the weekend in response to Serbian military movements seen near the country’s de facto border with predominantly ethnically Albanian and religiously Muslim Kosovo, whose independence from towards Serbia with a Serbian and Christian majority is contested among the members of Kosovo. International community.
With a number of Serbian troops reportedly recalled from the border and Serbian President Aleksandar Vuvic saying he “doesn’t want war”, envoys from both sides of the long-standing rivalry expressed News week the risk of further escalation if underlying tensions are not resolved.
“The security of the entire region is at stake,” said Ilir Dugoli, Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States. News week. “Vucic cannot be trusted as he once again attempts to manipulate in the face of irrefutable evidence of Serbia’s direct involvement in the training and planning of military aggression.”
But Marko Duric, Serbia’s ambassador to the United States, blamed the worsening friction on Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who Duric said continued “his efforts to persecute the Kosovo Serb population and provoke a conflict with Serbia.
“In the two years since Kurti came to power, he has encouraged the most extreme and violent approach towards the Kosovo Serb community,” Duric said. News week“resulting in more than 275 violent attacks against innocent civilians.”
Although the threat of a new outbreak of violence looms large, the feud between Serbia and Kosovo is rooted in tensions that persist in the Balkans following the breakup of the former socialist state of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The collapse of the multi-ethnic union forged in the aftermath of World War I fueled a decade of ethnic, nationalist and religious conflict, and led to NATOThis is the very first combat intervention in history.
The modern states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia have emerged from turmoil, with Kosovo’s status remaining a subject of international dispute since it declared independence from the Serbia in 2008.
Countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence include the United States and much of NATO and European Union, with the notable exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain. Other countries that do not recognize Kosovo’s independence include Serbia, Russia and Ukraine, as well as the main influential members of BRICS, which, in addition to Russia, include China, Brazil, India and South Africa.
Although the international community may be split down the middle on this issue, instances of violence like the one that struck late last month have sparked universal concern. And yet, two divergent narratives have emerged.
Duric said that “the Serbian government sincerely regrets and deplores the tragic violence that took place on September 24.” At the same time, he said “it is telling that Kurti did not allow the European Union Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to participate in the post-violence investigation.”
“As President Vucic has said, we have considerable evidence that unarmed prisoners were denied medical care and, in at least one case, were shot while lying on the ground.” , said Duric. “We need a full international investigation to shed light on what happened.”
The Serbian envoy also questioned why Kosovo security personnel were in ethnically Serb-majority northern Kosovo in the first place, which he said was only allowed with the approval of the NATO, based on a ten-year-old agreement. He highlighted what he sees as a long pattern of abuses that could create the conditions for such an incident.
“We have been warning for years that the human rights situation in Kosovo is unbearable,” Duric said, “and that sooner or later, out of sheer frustration and desperation, someone will take matters into their own hands, simply to ensure their fundamental rights. the safety, survival and security of their homes and families. »
Dugoli, for his part, however, said Kosovo had “concrete evidence” that the operation was the result of “Serbia’s hybrid war.”
“This terrorist attack, planned and supported financially and politically by Serbia, represents a serious threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security of Kosovo,” said the Kosovo ambassador.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have reached crisis levels since at least July last year, as the 11-year period allowing ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo to continue using license plates issued by Serbia for their vehicles has expired. Protests, mass resignations of Kosovo Serbs and occasional events outbreaks of violence The situation simmered for about a year until last April’s local elections became a new flashpoint, with the deployment of Kosovo police to northern Kosovo to install ethnic Albanian mayoral candidates who won a low-turnout vote largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs.
Clashes broke out, leaving dozens injured, including members of NATO’s Kosovo Peacekeeping Force (KFOR) who were trying to quell the violence. Serbian and Kosovar officials blame each other for deliberately provoking the unrest.
Today, following the latest deadly clash, Kosovo is calling on the international community to take action against Serbia.
“We are grateful to our partners for their rapid response,” Dugoli said, “and hope that this will be the moment when we do not return to business as usual with a country that sponsors terrorism, seeks to destabilize the region, which constantly threatens its neighbors, and a country which has made it clear that it is waiting for the moment to attempt to carry out the Greater Serbia project, now euphemistically called “Serbian world”.
“This is an era that demands condemnation and concrete sanctions against a regime that thrives on tensions and promotes violence,” he added, calling on the international community to “ensure that Serbia recognizes and respects the independence and sovereignty of its neighbors.
However, his Serbian counterpart affirmed that “Serbia has no incentive, either politically or economically, to intensify the military conflict”. On the contrary, Duric asserts, “the Serbian government is currently doing everything in its power to ease tensions.”
“We are mobilizing to hold fully accountable any Serbian citizen involved in the violence,” Duric said. “We call on our international partners in Washington and Brussels to authorize NATO’s KFOR mission to take over policing and security functions in Serb-populated areas and we call for the opening of a international investigation into what happened in Banjska on September 24.”
“We just wish Kurti would do the same,” he added.