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The EU's diplomatic chief condemns the aggressive language coming out of Pristina and Belgrade and asks them them to honour their earlier commitments.
The EU Foreign and Security Policy chief has told Kosovo and Serbia to ease tensions created by a series of arrests and refrain from the selective use of the law vis-à-vis each other's citizens.
In a comment sent to BIRN on Friday, Baroness Ashton’s office said the EU is taking the latest developments in Kosovo seriously and strongly condemns the arrests carried out on both sides.
“The tension and provocations we have seen in recent days are not in the spirit of the dialogue or in the spirit of the EU path that both sides have chosen. We expect both Belgrade and Pristina not only to live up to their commitments to implement the dialogue agreements but also to respect its obligations in terms of human rights and to meet the Copenhagen Criteria,” reads the comment.
On April 8 an explosive device killed Selver Haradinaj, a Kosovo Albanian, and wounded his wife and four children in the mixed neighbourhood of Mitrovica known as the “Three Skyscrapers”. Authorities in Pristina condemned the bomb attack as terrorism.
The recent arrests of two Kosovars last month at the Serbian border has raised tensions further between Belgrade and Prishtina.
Serbian police arrested Kosovo trade unionist Hasan Abazi, President of the Metalworkers Union, for alleged espionage carried out in 1999. They arrested another Kosovar, Adem Murseli, on drug charges.
The arrests in Serbia followed the arrests of a number of Serbs in Kosovo, some of whom were detained for bringing in material to be used for Serbian elections on May 6, which Belgrade is extending to Kosovo against the will of the Kosovo government.
Ashton said that Brussels expects both parties to live up to their commitments “to act responsibly and maybe most importantly not to resort to selective use of the law.
“Instead we have again heard unacceptable aggressive and inflammatory statements from both sides and we strongly condemn this kind of language,” says Ashton.
“To become a member of the EU one must respect the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.
“We call on both sides to show restraint, act responsibly and to continue to work with the International Community” she adds.
Kosovo analysts have criticised the EU's pursuit of quiet diplomacy in the case of the recent arrests, urging Ashton to take Serbian leaders to task.
David Phillips, a US-based Balkan commentator, wrote this week: "Instead of quiet diplomacy, Catherine Ashton should use the bully pulpit of her office as EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She should take Tadic to task for condoning Serbia’s tit-for-tat arrests."
The 65-year-old Abazi is now in 30 days of pre-trial detention in Vranje, southern Serbia.
The human rights group Amnesty International in an open letter sent says that “Hasan Abazi may be a prisoner of conscience."
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting between Kosovo and Serbia, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle urged both sides to take real steps to implement their EU-brokered agreement.
Officials have launched a week-long series of events aimed at raising awareness about tolerance, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between different religious faiths in Kosovo.
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The Serbian paramilitary who became a key prosecution witness at his former comrades’ trial for war crimes in Kosovo says he had to speak out about the brutal massacres his unit committed.
Despite two failed meetings about the implementation of the EU-brokered deal between Kosovo and Serbia, officials hope that prime ministerial talks next week will see progress.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has invited the Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers to a meeting next week to discuss how to implement their Brussels-brokered deal.
NATO’s Kosovo force warned that only authorised policing groups are allowed to carry weapons in northern Kosovo, not Serb-organised ‘civil defence’ units.
Former high-ranking Serbian interior ministry official Vlastimir Djordjevic admitted war crimes were committed against Kosovo Albanians during the 1999 conflict and apologised to civilian victims.
Lawmakers were advised to find different ways of remembering wartime fighters and victims after a series of parliamentary sessions commemorating individual ‘martyrs’.
Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and leaders in the Serb-run north of Kosovo have reached an agreement on the implementation of the EU-brokered deal.
Kosovo's authority will be introduced to Serb-run northern Kosovo in three stages, BIRN can reveal, as Kosovo Serb leaders warn the EU-backed plan may prompt them to emigrate.