With tensions between Kosovo and Serbia back in the red zone, visits were made on the part of both EU and US representatives over the past days—yet talks were apparently difficult, according to EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak.
“We particularly highlighted that while all citizens have the right to peacefully protest, violence is never acceptable and there cannot be any impunity,” Lajcak said in a Facebook post, although he added that he and US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar “hoped for more as a result of our mission, but unfortunately, despite some positive signals, tensions are still running high.”
In the post Lajcak noted that he and Escobar first visited Pristina to meet with Kosovo representatives and Kosovo Prime Minister, and this was followed by a visit to Belgrade and talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
“In Kosovo, we met with the top leadership including President Osmani, Prime Minister Kurti and first Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi,” he said. “Our discussions were long. We conveyed our concerns about the situation in the north and emphasized the need for immediate de-escalation.
“We reiterated what both the EU and the US have asked the parties to do when calling for a political solution: immediate de-escalation, early elections with the participation of Kosovo Serbs and a return to dialogue on normalization,” he added.
Lajcak noted that the pair “reached out to Kosovo Albanian opposition leaders, explaining the consequences of the current crisis and the damage it inflicts upon Kosovo’s international reputation,” while requesting these leaders to”defuse the tensions […] as no solution can be achieved without involving the affected population,
Likewise both met with representatives of Srpska Lista, and in Belgrade “equally long and also not easy discussions with President Vucic” were held.
Kosovo and Serbia are once again at loggerheads, with ethnic Serbs in North Kosovo incensed that local elections went forward despite a lack of ethnic Serb participation, and that they resulted in ethnic Albanian mayors installed despite protests. The EU and US have suggested new elections.
Protests have continued for two weeks in Zvečan and North Mitrovica. These have largely become peaceful, despite violent first protests that left both KFOR troops and protesters injured by the dozen. Yet ethnic Serbs are still angry over the arrival of Kosovo special forces and elections that saw only 3.5 percent participation being upheld.
Vucic, for his part, has kept Serbian military forces on the border on high alert while also juggling unrest at home.
Photo by Kai Mörk, CC BY 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.