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Witness: In Kosovo – renewed confrontations between the Serb minority and the security forces


Demonstrators belonging to the Serb minority in Kosovo tried to prevent elected members of the municipality in four towns in the north of the country from entering the headquarters of the municipalities, which led to confrontations with the security forces. The Serbs in Kosovo had boycotted the municipal elections, in light of the ongoing tension with the central government in Pristina.

Kosovo police fired tear gas Monday to disperse Serb demonstrators protesting to try to prevent Albanian mayors elected in a controversial ballot from taking office in predominantly Serb towns in northern Kosovo.

These mayors were appointed following local elections organized by the Kosovo authorities on April 23 in four municipalities inhabited mostly by the Serb minority in northern Kosovo. They had boycotted these elections to a large extent, as only 1,500 voters out of 45,000 registered voters participated in the poll.

The protesters are also calling for the withdrawal of the Special Security Forces deployed in the area for several days.

The situation in Zvecan deteriorated as special forces repelled a group of demonstrators who tried to storm the municipality headquarters, an AFP correspondent reported.

For its part, the police said in a statement that it responded when the demonstrators tried to breach a security cordon, “using violence and tear gas.”

Boycott the elections

The Serbs, whose political representatives left the local administrations in northern Kosovo in November in the context of a standoff between Belgrade and Pristina, boycotted the municipal elections organized by the Kosovo government in April to end the institutional vacuum.

Clashes similar to Friday occurred during the arrival of mayors to take office, accompanied by the police.

The NATO force deployed in Kosovo said it had “reinforced its presence” in the north and urged Belgrade and Pristina to resume dialogue under the auspices of the European Union to ease tensions.

Members of the NATO force deployed Monday in the vicinity of Zvecan municipality, according to an AFP correspondent.

Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared its independence in 2008, is witnessing frequent confrontations in the north, as Belgrade encourages Serbs to challenge the country’s authorities, which seek to impose its sovereignty over the entire region. So far, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

About 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, which has a population of 1.8 million, the overwhelming majority of whom are Albanians.

On Friday, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany called on the Kosovo authorities to “immediately step back and contain the escalation.” In a joint statement, these countries expressed their “concern over Serbia’s decision to raise the level of alertness of its armed forces at the border with Kosovo.”

On Friday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered the army to be on alert and “move” towards the border with Kosovo.

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