The US ambassador to Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenir, announced the exclusion of Kosovo from Defender 23, a program of joint military exercises between more than 20 countries that began in April and is supposed to continue until the end of June in Europe.
The United States announced on Tuesday the exclusion of Kosovo from a military training program in the first punishment after the Albanians officially handed over their duties as head of municipalities in the cities of the north, following their victory in elections boycotted by the Serbs, who form a majority in that region, which led to renewed tension.
And the Western powers called for an end to the escalation after violent clashes took place on Monday in front of a municipal building, in which about fifty demonstrators and about thirty soldiers from the NATO-led force were injured.
The US ambassador to Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenir, announced the exclusion of Kosovo from Defender 23, a program of joint military exercises between more than twenty 20 countries that began in April and is supposed to continue until the end of June in Europe.
Hovenir told reporters: “For Kosovo, this training is over.”
A bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo in 1999. Since then, NATO has been conducting a peacekeeping operation in this Albanian-majority region that declared its independence in 2008 and Serbia still refuses to recognize it.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken criticized Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, saying that his decision regarding mayors “exacerbated tensions severely and unnecessarily.”
Blinken called on “all parties to take immediate action to defuse the tension,” and condemned the “unacceptable violence” against peacekeepers.
The US ambassador threatened to take unprecedented measures to end diplomatic support for international recognition of this Balkan country whose independence is still disputed between Russia, China and some European countries.
“We asked Prime Minister Kurti very directly to take immediate measures to achieve de-escalation in the north, and he did not respond to these requests,” Hovenir said.
There has been tension for days in this region of Kosovo, where a large part of the Serbs do not recognize the authority of Pristina.
The Serbs boycotted the municipal elections in April in these towns, which led to the election of Albanian mayors despite a very low turnout of less than 3.5 percent of the electorate.
The government handed over municipal council members who were officially elected last week and the prime minister ignored calls for calm.
The Serb protesters, who gathered privately in front of the Zvecan municipality, are calling for the withdrawal of Albanian mayors and Kosovo police forces.
The international force, led by NATO, tried on Monday to separate the two parties before it began to disperse the fiercest demonstrators, who responded by throwing stones, bottles and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers.