Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday asked NATO’s mission in Kosovo (KFOR) and the European Union’s civilian mission in Kosovo (EULEX) for “guarantees” to protect Kosovo Serbs who have barricaded themselves in the northern areas, where they are the majority, and are now exposed to an ultimatum from Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who has given them until tonight to dismantle the blockades.
The Kosovo Serb barricades were erected in protest against the arrest of former Kosovo Serb policeman Dejan Pantic, who was arrested by the Kosovo Police upon his return home. Pantic’s family says they have had no news since his arrest earlier this week, according to Kosovo, for assaulting security forces.
Pantic, like 600 other Kosovo Serb officers, resigned from his post as part of the total boycott declared in November by Lista Serbia, a major Serb political force in northern Kosovo, in the latest episode of a simmering conflict since Kosovo’s independence in 2008 and the so-called license plate crisis over the power of vehicle identification between Pristina and Belgrade.
“Today is undoubtedly the most difficult day for me since I have been president of the Republic or prime minister of Serbia, and probably the most difficult night awaits me,” Vucic let it be known in remarks after an emergency meeting of his National Security Council over what he described as “an attempt by Kosovo to end the ‘Serbian problem'”
In this regard, Vucic has asked KFOR and EULEX to “guarantee” that the Kosovar security forces “will not undertake violent measures” against demonstrators in northern Kosovo, before calling for calm among the population in order not to inflame the situation even more, according to statements to the Serbian public broadcaster RTS.
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Kosovo: Serbs blocked roads in protest against arrest of a Serb policeman
“Sleepless nights are ahead of us” Serbian President Aleksandar Vučiailymotion
“Because, according to the UN decision, KFOR is the security force that must guarantee the security of the Serbs, and if they do not guarantee it to us, then everything will be perfectly clear to us,” he warned before applauding the security forces for their preparedness in case the situation escalates further.
“I am proud of our soldiers and policemen. We have never had such a willingness of people to be available for their homeland,” he said.
Also, Vucic has accused the United States and Kosovo of not having fulfilled absolutely no agreements since independence. “The UN charter or the agreements of Brussels or Washington: mention one, whichever one it is, that they and the Americans fulfill and you will see that it is impossible,” he has denounced.
“What has happened is that Kosovo and the United States created a monster together 23 years ago,” Vucic has declared in relation to the end of the Kosovo war, “which finished being born in (the Kosovar independence of) 2008.” The president has defended, about the barricades, that they are just a peaceful protest. “Nobody has made them on a whim or because they like to freeze, and they do not prevent the movement” of any Kosovar Albanian.
“Our conscience is clear. Our hands are tied, but, even when we are cornered, we have to fight. My message to the people is to respect EULEX and KFOR and not allow them to be provoked,” Vucic said.
Vucic announced Saturday that he will ask NATO to deploy the Serbian Army and Police in Kosovo amid this uptick in tensions, a request without any precedent since the end of the war in Kosovo more than 20 years ago.
Although the president has “no illusions” about the possibility of NATO accepting such a deployment at such a critical moment, Vucic has defended that Serbia has the right to make this request and criticized the room for maneuver enjoyed by the Kosovar authorities, who have declared their intention to apply this very month to join the European Union, as he made known in a speech reported by channel B92.
If the request is confirmed, it would be the first time Belgrade has asked to deploy in Kosovo, under the provisions of a UN Security Council resolution that ended a 1998-1999 war in which NATO eventually stepped in to protect Kosovo, which has an Albanian majority.