Serbia has criticized NATO-led peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo for allegedly failing to prevent "brutal actions" by Kosovo police against ethnic Serbs. Following violent clashes between Kosovo police and ethnic Serbs, Serbia's top political and security leadership, including President Aleksandar Vucic, met in Belgrade and ordered their armed forces near the border to remain on high alert. The statement released after the meeting blamed the Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and his forces for using excessive force against Serbs and criticized the international civilian mission and NATO-led troops for not adequately protecting them.
NATO spokesperson Oana Longescu called for immediate de-escalation and urged all parties to resolve the situation through dialogue. Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, who form the majority, attempted to block newly elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. Kosovo police responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd and allow entry to the officials, resulting in clashes and several cars being set ablaze.
The United States and Western countries condemned Kosovo's government for using police to forcibly gain entry to the buildings. In response, Prime Minister Kurti defended the action, stating that elected officials have the right to assume office without threats or intimidation. Serbia has previously warned of a response to violence against Serbs, but any attempt to send troops over the border would lead to a clash with NATO troops stationed in Kosovo.
The conflict in Kosovo dates back to 1998 when ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbia's rule, prompting a brutal crackdown. NATO intervened in 1999, leading to Serbia's withdrawal from the territory. While most EU countries and the United States recognize Kosovo as an independent state, Serbia, Russia, and China do not.
(With AP Inputs)