Heavy fighting in northern Kosovo: West calls for dialogue
When things go wrong in Kosovo, Western diplomacy desperately calls for peaceful talks. The government in Pristina has to deal with Serbian militants willing to resort to extreme violence on its own.
After heavy fighting in the Serb-inhabited north of the Kosovo with five dead, the West has called on the governments in Pristina and Serbia to continue their dialogue. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on the X platform, formerly Twitter: “We call on the governments of Kosovo and Serbia (…) to immediately return to the EU-mediated dialogue.”
EU Commission spokesman Peter Stano told the press in Brussels that both sides must make efforts “so that we can get out of the constant crisis mode and get back to solving problems through dialogue.”
Huge amounts of weapons
On Sunday, heavily armed Serb militants attacked Kosovar police officers in the town of Banjska near Mitrovica. The squad of around 30 men, equipped with automatic rifles, hand grenades, jeeps and an armored transport vehicle, holed up in the vicinity of a Serbian Orthodox monastery and fought battles with the Kosovo police all day long.
Four Serbian paramilitaries and a police officer were killed and three other police officers were injured. Several armed people and suspected civilian helpers were arrested. During searches, police seized enormous quantities of weapons and military equipment, including radios.
Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said some of the people arrested belong to the Kosovo Serb militant organization Civil Defense. According to the findings of Kosovar prosecutors, this is controlled, financed and generously equipped with weapons by the Serbian government.
Relationship strained for years
Sunday’s fighting was the worst incident in the tense relationship between Kosovo and Serbia in years. Most recently, dozens of attackers and uniformed men were injured in North Kosovo in May when Serb mobs rioted against Kosovar police officers and soldiers from the NATO-led KFOR protection force.
Kosovo, which is now almost exclusively inhabited by Albanians, seceded from Serbia with NATO help in 1999 after Serbian war crimes against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population and declared independence in 2008. More than 100 countries, including Germany, recognize independence. Serbia, Russia, China and five EU member states do not do this. Belgrade is demanding the return of its former province or at least the recognition of the northern part of the country, which is almost exclusively inhabited by Serbs.
Under the mediation of Borrell and the EU special representative Miroslav Lajcak, Kosovo and Serbia have been negotiating for several months about normalizing their relationship. However, the talks have so far been unsuccessful.