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NATO urges Kosovo to ease tensions with Serbia after conflict | Conflict News

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Pristina to de-escalate tensions after putting the army on high alert.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has called on Kosovo to ease tensions with Serbia, two days after Kosovo police clashed with protesters against the inauguration of an Albanian mayor in an ethnically Serbian region.

“Pristina must de-escalate and not take unilateral, destabilizing steps,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet on Sunday.

The secretary general of the transatlantic military alliance said he had spoken to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about Kosovo. He added that Pristina and Belgrade must engage in EU-led dialogue.

The Serb majority in northern Kosovo rejected the 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still consider Belgrade their capital more than two decades after the war ended in 1999.

They declined to contest local elections in April, where Albanian candidates won all four cities with 3.5% turnout. Backed by Belgrade, they said they would not accept the mayor and did not represent them.

A small group of Serbs in northern Kosovo clashed with police on Friday as they tried to block the entrance to a municipal building to prevent newly elected officials from entering.

Police fired tear gas and several cars were set ablaze. Three-quarters of the mayors entered their offices under police escort, who threw rocks at them and responded with tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

Following the latest unrest, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić ordered the army to be on high alert and “start moving” towards the Kosovo border.

A National Security Council meeting chaired by Vucic on Saturday morning adopted a plan for “security activities aimed at strengthening Serbia’s defense capabilities,” the Serbian president’s office said in a statement.

“The Serbian Armed Forces remain on high alert until further notice,” the president added.

The embassies of the United States, Britain, Italy, France and Germany (known as the “Quint Group”) and the European Union’s office in Pristina issued a joint statement warning Kosovo against any other measures to force entry into municipal buildings.

“We strongly warn all parties against other threats or actions that could affect the security environment, including freedom of movement, which could increase tension or spark conflict,” Quint and the EU said.

“New unilateral actions will have a negative impact on relations with the quintuplet countries and the EU.”

The U.S., U.K. and the European Union are the main backers of Kosovo, which remains out of the U.N. due to opposition from Serbia, Russia, China and others.

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