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8 Jan, 2023 12:04

NATO rejects Serbian request – president

The US-led bloc denies there is a need for Belgrade's troops to return to Kosovo, Aleksandar Vucic says
NATO rejects Serbian request – president

NATO has rejected Belgrade’s request for the deployment of Serbian troops to Kosovo amid rising tensions in the breakaway region, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has said.

In a “carefully composed letter” the command of the US-led military bloc's contingent in Kosovo (KFOR) “replied that they believe that there is no need for the return of the Serbian Army to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, while referring to Resolution 1244” of the UN Security Council, Vucic told Pink TV on Sunday.

KFOR refrained from pointing out a specific clause in the resolution that would justify its decision, “since they have no right to refuse that request,” the president insisted.

Resolution 1244, which authorizes the presence of foreign forces in Kosovo, was adopted in 1999 after a nearly three months-long NATO bombing campaign against Serbia.

The US and many of its allies recognized the mainly Albanian-populated Kosovo as a sovereign state in 2008. Belgrade, however, has been reluctant to give in to pressure to do the same. It still considers the province to be an integral part of its territory, with the Serbian stance being shared by Russia, China and other nations.

The rejection of Belgrade’s request to deploy troops to Kosovo to protect ethnic Serbs came as no surprise, Vucic said. However, the head of state added that he thought that it was “inappropriate” on the part of NATO to send a negative response to Serbia on Saturday, the day the Orthodox country celebrated Christmas.

As for the KFOR troops in Kosovo, Vucic pointed out that he couldn’t call their conduct unprofessional but added that the NATO contingent in the region was “only a tool” for the Western powers.

Belgrade and Pristina have been at odds throughout 2022 over plans to ban Serbian license plates in the restive province. Heavily armed ethnic Albanian police had been deployed in Serbian-populated areas, with locals protesting and building barricades in response.

Tensions in the region have again spiked earlier this week after two Serbian youths, who were walking with oak branches used to celebrate Christmas in the Orthodox Christian tradition, were wounded in a drive-by shooting near the town of Strpce. The alleged attacker, who has since been detained, is an ethnic Albanian.

“We have a difficult period ahead of us, but we’ll keep fighting and we expect a positive outcome,” Vucic said. The incidents like the one outside Strpce are happening because of the environment created in Kosovo by the local government of Albin Kurti, he insisted.