December 6. 2023. 6:08

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Kosovo PM presents plan to defuse tensions in Serb-majority area

Kosovo’s prime minister (pictured) on Tuesday (13 June) presented a plan to defuse tensions in its Serb-majority north that would include fresh local elections and cuts in special police, bowing to pressure from key Western supporters of its independence.

But the arrest the same day of a Serb identified by the Kosovo Albanian interior minister as an organiser of assaults on NATO peacekeepers during Serb unrest last month stirred fresh anger in the volatile region.

Around 200 Serbs gathered in North Mitrovica to protest against the arrest, with Kosovo Albanian police in anti-riot gear standing a few hundred metres away. US soldiers with the KFOR peacekeeping force were also in the vicinity.

During the operation to arrest Milun Milenkovic, three Kosovo Albanian policemen were lightly injured, Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said on his Facebook page.

Some 30 peacekeepers and 52 Serbs were injured in the clashes late last month after ethnic Albanian mayors took office following a local election in which turnout was just 3.5% after Serbs who form a majority in the region boycotted the vote.

The United States and European Union have called on Prime Minister Albin Kurti to withdraw the mayors, remove special police used to install them and uphold a 2013 deal for an association of autonomous Serb municipalities in the region.

Kurti said that "violent (Serb) groups have been withdrawn from Kosovo territory (and therefore) the presence of Kosovo police troops in three municipal buildings will be downsized".

“The government of the Republic of Kosovo will coordinate with all the actors and announce early elections in four municipalities in the north," Kurti told a press conference after meeting ambassadors of the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Britain, known as the Quint group.


He said he had presented his plan to EU and U.S. envoys and called for a follow-up meeting between Serbian and Kosovo officials in Brussels, where the EU is based.

Kurti said nothing about setting up the association of Serb municipalities which would ensure greater autonomy for the Serb majority area. He has been loath to implement the accord, citing fears that it would spur the region to seek to rejoin Serbia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic urged Kosovo last week to grant more autonomy to Serbs before organizing a new vote.

The head of the Serbian government office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, said that by arresting Milenkovic for organising protests: "Kurti has shown he is only interested in conflict."

Kosovo declared internationally recognized independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after an uprising by the 90% ethnic Albanian majority against repressive Serbian rule. NATO bombing drove out Serbian security forces but Belgrade continues to regard Kosovo only as its southern province.

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