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17 Dec, 2022 11:41

NATO reinforces presence in Kosovo

The KFOR peacekeeping force has set up additional patrols in the north of the region after a spike in tensions between Belgrade and Pristina
NATO reinforces presence in Kosovo

The NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) has expanded its deployment in the northern part of Serbia’s breakaway region. The move was announced on Friday, a day after Belgrade officially asked KFOR to allow the return of up to 1,000 Serbian police officers to Kosovo, accusing the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina of “terrorizing” local Serbs.

Posting on Twitter, the mission said: “since October we’ve been reinforcing our presence, including with additional troops & patrols in northern Kosovo this week.” KFOR added that it expects close coordination from all actors, asking them to “refrain from provocative shows of force” to ensure security in the region.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared up last week, when Serbian protesters erected barricades in the northern part of Kosovo to protest against the arrest of a former police officer, accused of attacking a Kosovo police patrol.

On Wednesday, ethnic Albanian officials replaced their Serbian counterparts in North Mitrovica, the largest Serb-majority municipality in the north of Kosovo. Previously, all Serb List party members, who had enjoyed a landslide election victory, resigned from their posts in protest at Pristina’s now-defunct plan to outlaw Serbian license plates in Kosovo.

On Thursday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic officially asked KFOR for the return of up to 1,000 police to Kosovo, based on a provision of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which put an end to the NATO attack on former Yugoslavia in 1999. It also allows Belgrade to send its military and police personnel to Kosovo in certain situations, including if the “peaceful and normal life” of its population there is threatened.

Vucic accused Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti of “wanting to destroy Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija.” He also stressed that local Serbs are unwilling to “suffer his terror” any longer.

However, the plans to send Serbian police to Kosovo have been opposed by the US. The State Department’s special envoy for the region, Gabriel Escobar, claimed Washington had given Kosovo “very firm security guarantees.”

KFOR has been operating in Kosovo since 1999, when NATO forces completed their bombing campaign against Serbia. The force currently has 4,000 troops in place to safeguard peace in the region.