Kosovo ‘s President says ‘Kosovo will defend its freedom at any price’, as Serbian troops mass on its borders
Additional NATO KFOR peacekeeping forces deployed in the region
Recent tensions between Serb and Kosovo’s forces and a sudden build up of Serbian forces on the Kosovo border, have forced members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to issue a warning to Belgrade, urging Serbia to immediately downscale its military build up and to withdraw from the Kosovo’s border areas. At the special meeting on Friday 29th September, NATO members additionally authorized extra forces to be deployed to increase the NATO peacekeeping force (KFOR) presence in the region.
US Secretary of State urges Serbia to 'stand down' and demands that it indicts gunmen responsible for killing Kosovo policemen
The US State Office also issued a statement urging Belgrade to ‘stand down’, after it announced it had detected ‘unprecedented’ build up of Serbian tanks and artillery near the Kosovo border.
The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, spoke on the phone with Serbian President, Vucic, during which Secretary Blinken, urged the de-escalation of tensions with Kosovo ‘in the wake of the September 24th violence and death of a Kosovo Police Sergeant . According to the White Office spokesperson, Mathew Miller, Blinken was adamant that:
‘those responsible for the attacks who are now in Serbia must be held accountable’
Secretary Blinken further: ‘voiced his support for the actions of KFOR and EULEX in responding to this event… welcomed KFOR’s increased presence and the North Atlantic Council’s decision to authorize additional forces. The Secretary reiterated Serbia must accompany immediate de-escalation with full implementation of its commitment under the normalization agreement within the EU facilitated dialogue’
Tensions escalate after armed gunmen kill two Kosovo policemen
The Serbian military build up, followed clashes last week on Sunday 24th September, as a police patrol was ambushed in the village of Banjska, which resulted in the death of a Kosovo policeman and the injury of one other. The gunmen subsequently barricaded themselves in a monastery and a siege began, which ended with the deaths of three of the gunmen. The Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, declared the event to have involved as many as thirty gunmen as he made calls for their surrender. Several arrests were made and large quantities of weapons seized, in what has been described as one of the gravest escalations in the region for years. Border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo were subsequently closed.
The Kosovo Prime Minister, Alban Kurti, later addressed a press conference at which he referred to the ambush as an act of terrorism – perpetrated in collaboration with the Serbian government. The Serbian government responded by saying that they intended to:
‘debunk all the lies and hoaxes of Alban Kurti, the creator of chaos and hell in Kosovo’
Kosovo President accuses the Serbian Government of being directly responsible for the assault
In a TV interview following the shoot out, the Kosovo President, Vjosa Osmani, pointedly accused the Serbian government of being responsible for the assault. She said:
‘What we know until now of what happened in the north of Kosovo was an armed attack by paramilitary forces that have been paid, trained, aided, abetted, organized and orchestrated by Serbia. It was a terrorist attack and equally so an act of aggression by the side of Serbia against the Republic of Kosovo, against our sovereignty and territorial integrity'
Kosovo President declares that Serbia still retains a desire to achieve its territorial aspirations
The Kosovo President spoke of Serbia's failure to recognise Kosovo's independence and its continued territorial aspirations in the region. She urged the international community to take action and to sanction Serbia for what she described as an orchestrated act of aggression. She said:
‘What is happening is an act by an aggressor state and self-defense by the Republic of Kosovo. We are defending our people, defending our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, peace and stability and I would say stability not just in our country, but in the region as well. And we will not waver from this responsibility as well as from this determination, no matter how high the price and no matter how difficult it is…Even as we speak, almost 25 years after the genocidal war of Milosevic, Serbia continues that same policy of territorial claims’
‘No longer business as usual…this is aggression against the Republic of Kosovo’
President Osmani, then made clear that the latest set of events were unique and an obvious escalation of current very heightened tensions. She said that:
‘[the international community] cannot pretend that this is business as usual, because it's absolutely not business as usual any longer. This is the reality, which is absolutely based on irrefutable evidence about their direct involvement in organizing this attack and this aggression against the Republic of Kosovo. They are trying to carry out a Crimea model in the Republic of Kosovo, but we will absolutely not let that happen. We are working hand in hand with all of our security institutions to defend every inch of Kosovo territory, to defend every citizen of the Republic of Kosovo’