Minority Serbs working in Kosovo institutions will leave their jobs unless a deal is reached to end their “persecution”, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday.
Tension between Kosovo and Serbia has revived in recent weeks, more than two decades after NATO airstrikes drove Serbian forces from Kosovo to stop violence against its majority Albanians. Russia, an ally of Serbia, has expressed concern.
Talks sponsored by the European Union (EU) in Brussels earlier this week failed to overcome differences which centre on a plan by the Kosovo authorities to require local Serbs to switch their car number plates from Serbian ones to Kosovo ones. Read full storyRead full story
Many Serbs in Kosovo have already done so, but some 50,000 living in the north, who see Belgrade in Serbia as their capital, created road blocks late last month in protest at the requirement before NATO peacekeepers oversaw their removal.Read full story
“Unless the persecution of Serbs is stopped, the politicians will leave all Kosovo institutions over the next month, and then judges and police officers will follow the suit by the end of September,” Vucic told a news conference called after he met with Serbs from the north of Kosovo, which borders Serbia.
The situation calmed after Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti agreed, under U.S. and EU pressure, to postpone the number plates rule until Sept. 1.
Kurti and Vucic, who held talks in Brussels, agreed to resume discussions before Sept. 1 to avoid further unrest but Vucic was not optimistic. He said that Kurti had rejected all “compromise solutions” that he proposed.
“I am in a very difficult situation,” Vucic told reporters. “We shall seek a compromise in the next 10 days but I fear that the Rubicon has been crossed long ago.”
Vucic also criticised NATO for increasing its presence in the north part of Kosovo.
“It’s not your job to watch if someone is crossing barricades but to protect Serbs from intrusions of the Kosovo police in the north,” he said.
Kosovo won independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a guerrilla uprising against repressive Belgrade rule.
Its constitution guarantees a number of roles in parliament and government for minority Serbs, but Serbia still considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory.
Belgrade denies whipping up tension there, and accuses Pristina of trampling on the rights of minority Serbs. Ethnic Serbs account for 5% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.