The government in Belgrade has officially petitioned the KFOR peacekeeping mission for the return of up to 1,000 police to its breakaway province of Kosovo, citing a provision of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The request comes as President Aleksandar Vucic accused the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina of “terrorizing” the remaining ethnic Serbs.
The resolution officially put an end to the NATO attack on Serbia in 1999, allowing the US-led alliance to seize Kosovo but nominally guaranteed Serbia’s sovereignty over the province. Kosovo’s provisional government then declared independence in 2008, but neither Serbia nor the UN have recognized it.
Appearing on RTS state television on Thursday evening, Vucic said that KFOR doesn’t have the legal right to reject the request, but will most likely do so anyway. He is prepared to go to the Security Council next, he said.
The security presence is intended to protect Serbian citizens and establish control over the administrative crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak. Local residents have barricaded both checkpoints for several days now, in protest over the deployment of ethnic Albanian police.
Kosovo PM Albin Kurti “openly speaks about wanting to destroy Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija,” Vucic claimed, adding that the local Serbs are unwilling to “suffer his terror” any longer. He also criticized the US and the EU, saying their envoys “literally told me they did not intend to abide by any” of the agreements regarding Kosovo.
Earlier this week, the State Department’s special envoy Gabriel Escobar told a US government outlet that Washington “categorically” opposed the return of Serbian police to Kosovo. In response, Serbian PM Ana Brnabic asked if there were any resolutions, agreements or principles that the West deemed applicable, “or are we just supposed to follow your horoscope in order to guess your wishes?”
Vucic said he was willing to talk about anything, but that recognizing Kosovo or its membership in the UN is simply “unacceptable.” Before anything else can be discussed, Pristina would need to carry out its obligation to establish a community of Serb municipalities, “but I don’t believe they ever will,” he added.
Escobar has also urged Pristina to do this, as an obligation it cannot walk away from, but Kurti’s party publicly refused. Moscow has warned the ethnic Albanian government that it was “playing with fire.”
Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called Serbia’s request “surreal,” adding that “Kosovo was once and for all liberated from Serbia” more than 20 years ago. Kurti’s party advocates a ‘Greater Albania’ that would include Kosovo as well as parts of Montenegro, Greece, and North Macedonia.