Serbia says KFOR rejected its forces’ return to Kosovo


BELGRADE, Serbia — The NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo has rejected a request from Serbia that its security forces be allowed to return to the breakaway province amid ongoing tensions, Serbia’s president said. said on Sunday.

Aleksandar Vucic said the KFOR peacekeepers, who deployed in Kosovo in 1999, after a NATO bombing forced the Serbian army and police to leave the territory.

Serbia made its request in mid-December as tensions in Kosovo increased following the arrest of a former Serbian policeman, which led to roadblocks in the north of the country, where the majority of ethnic Serbs were born. living.

Those tensions were later eased amid efforts by the European Union and the United States to forge an EU-brokered dialogue between former Balkan war enemies. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and the dispute remains a potential flashpoint.

In the most recent incident, a Kosovo security officer on duty shot and wounded two ethnic Serbs last week in central Kosovo, including an 11-year-old boy. Kosovo police said the man was arrested following the incident near the town of Strpce.

Conflict in Kosovo erupted when Albanian separatists launched an uprising against Serbian rule, and Belgrade responded with a brutal crackdown prompting NATO to intervene. About 13,000 people have died in the conflict, mostly ethnic Albanians.

Serbia insists that hundreds of its security forces have the right to redeploy under UN resolutions after the war. Belgrade said sending troops back to Kosovo would help reduce tensions, a claim vehemently denied by Kosovo and Western officials.

Vucic said KFOR’s response to Serbia’s request was expected because of Western support for Kosovo’s independence. Serbia has relied on Russia and China in an effort to maintain its claim to the former province, which many Serbs regard as the nation’s heartland.

The West “isn’t worried about the Serb boys getting hurt,” Vucic complained on pro-government Pink TV station. “I don’t expect another answer from KFOR.”

Both Serbia and Kosovo have been told that they must normalize relations if they want to progress towards EU membership. A high-level US delegation will visit the region next week to help advance deadlocked EU-brokered talks.


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