Kosovo accuses Serbia of planning to 'annex' its north

AFP , Monday 2 Oct 2023

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Monday accused Serbia of trying to annex the country's Serb-majority north and said that recent deadly clashes were part of the plan.

Pedestrians walk past a mural painted in colours of the Serbian flag, reading When the Army returns to Kosovo in Belgrade on October 1, 2023. AFP


Around 30 gunmen were involved in a shootout with Kosovo police in a north Kosovo village in late September, killing one officer.

It was one of the most serious escalations in years between police from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and members of the ethnic Serb minority.

Three Serb gunmen were also killed in the hours-long shootout in the village of Banjska after they ambushed a patrol and latter barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery near the northern border with Serbia.

Kurti said Kosovo police confiscated documents which showed the "terrorist" attack against police in Banjska "was part of a larger plan to annex the north of Kosovo" by a coordinated attack on tens of positions in the area.

"Establishing a corridor to Serbia would follow to enable supply of arms and troops," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In the wake of the clashes, Kosovo authorities rounded up suspects, remanded three alleged gunmen in custody and seized an arsenal of weapons that, according to them, could arm hundreds of people.

The United States on Friday urged Serbia to withdraw what it said was a large military build-up on the border with Kosovo, following the attack in Banjska.

In response to the "current situation", Britain said it was sending troops to join NATO-led peacekeepers there.

In the aftermath, Kosovo's government displayed a large arsenal of weapons and equipment and accused the government in Belgrade of backing the incident.

On Friday, Milan Radoicic, the vice president of Serb List, the Kosovo Serbs' main political party, resigned after admitting to organising the armed group.

However, he denied receiving any help from Belgrade.

The clash on September 24 was just the latest in a long list of incidents in Kosovo's troubled north since Pristina declared independence from Belgrade in 2008.

Serbia -- and key allies China and Russia -- have refused to recognise the move.

Despite years of European Union-sponsored talks between the two sides on normalising ties, little progress has been achieved.

Relations between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and its Serb minority remain tense.

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