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news 03 Feb 17

Vucic Blames Kosovo, EU for Spike in Tensions

Serbia's Prime Minister said he had appealed to Kosovo Serb leaders to calm tensions in northern Kosovo, but locals say Belgrade holds a fair share in spike of strains.

Natalia Zaba, Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Photo: Beta

Serbian premier Aleksandar Vucic on Friday blamed Kosovo’s leaders for the sharp rise in tensions between Pristina and Belgrade and for the apparent failure of talks in Brussels this week aimed at calming the situation.

“They don’t want any agreement,” Vucic said of Kosovo’s leaders.

Speaking at a press conference in Belgrade, he also accused the EU of lacking the courage to say who was undermining the Kosovo-Serbia agreements.

“Who first came out with statements - [Kosovo President Hashim] Thaci and [Prime Minister Isa] Mustafa, or Vucic? So, why didn't you say so? You don't have the courage to say who violated [the agreements],” Vucic said as he castigated EU officials for their alleged timidity.

He said that he had urged Serbs in Kosovo to do their best to remain calm.

“I saw fear among the Serbs of the south [of Kosovo] and rage among Serbs from the north, but I called on them to relax,” Vucic said.

"If they [the Kosovo Albanians] come to destroy, let them destroy, we have the brains and capacity to rebuild from scratch; we must not start conflicts. One month of conflict sets us back ten years,” he added.

After a month of mounting tensions, relations between Belgrade and Pristina were dragged backwards even further on January 14 when Serbia sent a train painted in the colours of the Serbian flag and bearing the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 21 languages from Belgrade to the northern, Serb-run part of the town of Mitrovica.

The Serbian authorities stopped the train in Raska, just before the Kosovo border, after which Vucic dramatically accused the Kosovo government of trying to blow up the railway line. Kosovo dismissed the claim.

An EU-led meeting on Wednesday between senior Serbian and Kosovo officials failed to resolve matters.

Vucic also complained on Friday of Pristina's inaction over the formation of the planned Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, saying that Serbia had been awaiting action on this agreement for four years.

He further accused the Kosovo authorities of threatening Serbs in northern Kosovo.

Thaci said on Thursday that he wanted to send a message to Kosovo Serbs that they “never have to fear Kosovo state”.

But Vucic said this was not true.

Nenad Radosavljevic, a Serb municipal committee member from Leposavic in Kosovo, meanwhile accused Serbia's politicians of trying to hide their failures and unfulfilled promises by drawing attention to ethnic conflicts, instead of important things like employment or economic growth.

“They want to hide their failures because nothing that they promised has happened. People don’t have a better life so they decided to call for war. And that situation could easily get out of control,” Radosavljevic warned.

Aleksandar Djikic, a university professor and president of the Serbian National Forum, also accused politicians of inflaming the situation.

“No matter how much Belgrade works on raising tensions in Kosovo for their own marketing and election campaigns, these tensions do not exist,” Djikic claimed.

Far-right Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj alleged on Thursday that Kosovo Albanians were planning an armed attack on the four mainly Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo - Leposavic, Zvecane, Mitrovica and Zubin Potok.

But Djikic said Seselj's comments were “deliberate political stupidities”, arguing that “plans for bloodshed” did not exist in Serbia or Kosovo.

Nexhemdin Spahiu, a Kosovo Albanian political analyst from Mitrovica, said the situation in Mitrovica was calming down after Vucic's messages to local Serbs.

Spahiu said that while relations between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo were not friendly, they were not as bad as Belgrade wants to present them.

“Relations between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians are far from perfect but ... incidents happen more often inside both ethnic groups than between them,” Spahiu told BIRN.

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