April 13. 2024. 5:51

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Kosovo-Serbia tensions spike significantly over weekend

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia flared once again over the weekend after a Kosovo Serb was arrested for setting fire to ethnic-Serb-owned cars that switched to Kosovo number plates.

In 2022, the government in Pristina announced that all vehicles belonging to Kosovo citizens must have Pristina-issued plates. The decision caused outrage from the Serb minority in the north of the country, who continue to use Serbia-issued plates and do not recognise Kosovo’s independence.

But over the last week, several vehicles that did make the switch were set on fire. Police arrested an individual on suspicion of arson, but also for an attack on a Kosovo police unit, being a member of a criminal group, assault of a public official, and attempted murder.

Kosovo police said the arrest came after “intensive investigations by relevant police units” in a bid to fight organised crime and prevent further criminal acts.

But the arrest was not well received by Serbian List, the ethnic-Serb political party in Kosovo.

“After collecting information about today’s abduction of Serbs by Kurti’s special forces, we would like to emphasise that the Serbian people are warning Pristina that if they do not release the unjustly arrested person and do not stop harassing Serbian people, it will provoke a reaction from all Serbs.”

They continued in a statement that it would not be “some warning”, but rather an uprising against what they call Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s “repression of innocent citizens.”

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Sunday accused the Kosovo government of creating a new crisis and wanting to “avoid the obligations” it made during the EU-facilitated dialogue.

“This is a true indicator of their clear intention that they do not want peace and that they are trying to avoid the obligations that they undertook in Ohrid, among other things…It is very clear that an old situation is on the horizon, and a new crisis produced by Pristina,” said Dacic.

He called on the international community to “react urgently” and “stop Albin Kurti”.

In the early hours of Sunday, police officers were attacked with an explosive device in North Mitrovica, one of the Serb-majority areas. The police reported a device was thrown at them and an investigation is ongoing.

The new unrest and fresh threats from Belgrade come amid ongoing dialogue between the two sides, facilitated by the EU, in a bid to normalise relations. Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, following the 1998-1999 war, Serbia continues to refuse to recognise it.

The talks have resulted in a verbal agreement from both sides on normalising relations, and an annexe of how provisions of the agreement will be implemented.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al, Bojana Zimonjić Jelisavac | EURACTIV.rs)