Tensions between the two Balkan countries flared again due to the results of a local election that local Serbs overwhelmingly boycotted. Police raided Serb-dominated areas in Northern Kosovo and seized local municipality buildings after newly elected ethnic Albanians were elected in an area that mainly consists of Serbs.
Serbs held protests in the area that triggered a standoff between their protesters and the Kosovo peacekeepers and local police that began last Friday. NATO decided earlier this week to send 700 additional troops to Kosovo to try and help quell the rising tensions. Dozens of peacekeepers have been injured due to violent clashes between protestors.
“We are not facing peaceful protesters, we are facing a mob of extremists,” Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo, told CNN. “This is a fascist militia who attacked our policemen and NATO soldiers – and journalists who were on the ground reporting.”
Protests continue as NATO attempts to calm the tensions and international officials are trying to devise solutions.
Many worry this situation will cause a repeat of the 1998-1999 conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. The war claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced over a million people. Kosovo, which primarily consists of ethnic Albanians, was formerly a province of Serbia. However, the country fought for its independence and officially claimed it in 2008. Over 100 countries around the world acknowledge their sovereignty, including the United States. Serbia still considers Kosovo to be a part of them despite not having any control over the area. Russia and China have sided with Serbia on this matter.
Despite the United States recognizing Kosovo, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is critical of the country’s response to the matter.
“The United States strongly condemns the actions by the Government of Kosovo to access municipal buildings in the north of Kosovo by force,” Blinken said in a statement on Tuesday. “These actions have sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions, undermining our efforts to help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia and will have consequences for our bilateral relations with Kosovo.”
The two countries have experienced several struggles for decades now and new generations are fueling the rising tensions following past beliefs. The involvement of other nations in this feud is causing further friction.
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