Kosovo wants EU, NATO to warn Serbia against escalation

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2017 11:54 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's president has called on the European Union and NATO to warn Serbia against inciting a new conflict in Kosovo and the region.

President Hashim Thaci's request followed a Brussels meeting on Wednesday with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and the prime ministers of the two countries convened by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

In a statement Thursday, Thaci accused Belgrade of inciting inter-ethnic hatred in northern Kosovo. Tensions started to build there in December when ethnic Serbs erected a wall at a bridge, saying it was to prevent landslides. The barrier was seen as a provocation by the ethnic Albanian majority.

On Thursday, police said some 200 ethnic Serbs in northern Mitrovica, a Serb minority area, gathered allegedly after reports of increased presence of Kosovo police there. Police said security was "generally stable."

"I again invite Serbia to leave aside such practices that do not serve the process of reconciliation and normalization of our relations between Kosovo and Serbia," said Thaci.

Mogherini has urged the countries to normalize ties "both to preserve peace and advance towards the European Union."

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized it as a separate country.

Serbia, backed by Russia, has sought to maintain influence in Kosovo's north where most of the country's Serb minority lives. Thousands of NATO-led troops continue to control Kosovo's territory since a three-month air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Tension between Pristina and Belgrade increased in early January with the detention of Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovo prime minister, and days later when a Serbian train with signs reading "Kosovo is Serbia" was turned back from the border with Kosovo.