In view of growing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, the USA has called on the Serbian side to immediately de-escalate.
Washington expressed concern on Friday about an unusual buildup of Serbian troops on the border with Kosovo. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the US State Department announced in Washington on Friday.
According to the Serbian news agency Tanjug, Vucic denied having assembled major military units on the border with Kosovo. The National Security Council's communications director, John Kirby, spoke of an "unprecedented" array of artillery and tanks. “We call on Serbia to withdraw these troops from the border,” Kirby said in Washington.
After last Sunday's attack in northern Kosovo, Blinken demanded in the phone call that those responsible, who were currently in Serbia, be held accountable. Blinken welcomed the fact that NATO had approved the deployment of additional forces to the small Balkan country.
Vucic described allegations as “untruths”
Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti asked the USA for help against Belgrade's "war plans" on the X platform, formerly Twitter. Accordingly, Kurti phoned US national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
In the phone call with Blinken, Vucic described the allegations from Washington as “untruths,” according to Tanjug. He agreed with Blinken that de-escalation and a “significantly larger role for KFOR are necessary,” it said, referring to the NATO protection force for Kosovo. Blinken also called on Serbia to implement its obligations under the normalization agreement.
Kosovo, which is now almost exclusively inhabited by Albanians, seceded from Serbia in 1999 with NATO help and declared independence in 2008. More than 100 countries, including Germany, recognize independence, but not Serbia, which is reclaiming its former province.
The normalization agreement proposed by the EU requires Serbia to recognize Kosovo de facto, but not de jure. In return, Kosovo should allow the formation of an association of ethnic Serb communities in northern Kosovo. However, Pristina sees this point as a precursor to a secession.
Kosovo Serb Radoicic claims responsibility for attack
The new tensions reached their climax on Sunday: a 30-strong, heavily armed Serbian commando group fought with the Kosovar police in the town of Banjska near Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. Three Serbian attackers and a Kosovar police officer were killed.
The Kosovo Serb top politician and businessman Milan Radoicic claimed responsibility for this attack. He claimed that he carried out the action on his own initiative and did not inform any official authorities in Serbia about it. However, the government in Pristina considers it impossible that Radoicic acted on his own initiative. Where Radoicic is is unknown.
NATO strengthens KFOR protection force
The North Atlantic Council, NATO's most important decision-making body, approved the deployment of additional forces to the small Balkan country, the alliance announced in Brussels. It did not provide any information about the number of additional soldiers.
KFOR has been responsible for ensuring security in the country since 1999. According to the latest information, it currently has around 4,500 soldiers from 27 NATO countries and partner states. Germany recently took part in the KFOR mission with around 80 soldiers.