State Department: The Government of Kosovo’s decision to force access to municipal buildings unnecessarily escalated tensions


The US Secretary of State reacted to the crisis in the north for the second time in less than a week. The State Department called on the Kosovo PM to ensure that elected mayors carry out their duties from alternate locations and withdraw police forces from municipal buildings. Furthermore, they urged president Vucic to „lower the security status of Serbian Armed Forces“ and Kosovo Serbs to halt challenges to KFOR.

“We call on all parties to take immediate actions to de-escalate tensions. The United States condemns the unacceptable violence yesterday against NATO-led KFOR troops, law enforcement, and journalists,” reads the latest press statement of the State Department on the Monday clash between Serbian protestors and KFOR.

“The Government of Kosovo’s decision to force access to municipal buildings sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions. Prime Minister Kurti and his government should ensure that elected mayors carry out their transitional duties from alternate locations outside municipal buildings, and withdraw police forces from the vicinity.”

“President Vucic and the Government of Serbia should lower the security status of Serbian Armed Forces and urge Kosovo Serbs to halt challenges to KFOR and refrain from further violence. Both Kosovo and Serbia should immediately recommit to engaging in the EU-facilitated Dialogue to normalize relations.”

Tensions have been running extremely high in the north since Friday when the special units of the Kosovo Police forcibly installed three ethnic Albanian mayors into Serb-controlled municipal buildings in Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic.

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was one of the first to react with a statement following the KP action, strongly condemning the unilateral move of the Kosovo authorities. Blinken called for an immediate de-escalation of tensions, and avoidance of destabilizing actions. The US has continuously repeated this call since Friday, which proved fruitless. On Monday, the Kosovo authorities continued their efforts to install four Albanian mayors elected in Serb-boycotted elections, into the municipal buildings.

Local Serbs objected to these actions and have been protesting in front of the municipal buildings since Friday. All-day negotiations between the citizens and the Kosovo police, in which a US representative of KFOR served as a mediator, failed and ended in a clash between local protestors and KFOR. The conflict broke out after KFOR announced that it would push the protestors off the street, in order to remove two armored police vehicles which were blocked by the crowd.

More than a dozen Serbs were injured, one seriously, and 30 KFOR soldiers, three of whom sustained serious injuries.

„The situation to be immediately de-escalated“ – reads the message which was repeatedly sent to Kurti starting from Friday. The same call was reiterated by the US Ambassador to Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier.

“A comparison I was making is, it’s like having a house on fire. You need to put out the fire. So I don’t think you’re going to see an awful lot of patience on the part of the United States with regard to our expectations that the government take action now to de-escalate the situation in the north,” Hovenier said yesterday.

The ambassador asked the Kosovo Prime Minister for the police officers to withdraw from the municipal buildings, and the newly elected mayors to carry out their functions in alternative locations.

Confirmation of the first measures taken against Pristina arrived. Kosovo’s participation in the international military exercise ‘Defender Europe 23’ has been canceled, and other actions are being considered.

According to Hovenier, the US currently has no enthusiasm to engage with non-recognizers of Kosovo or work actively to advance Kosovo’s European or Euro-Atlantic trajectory.

Read more:

Conflict in Zvečan between KFOR members and Serbs, there are casualties

Protests Break Out in Three Municipalities in Northern Kosovo, KFOR secures the scene

KFOR: Both Sides Must Refrain from Actions that Could Incite Violence and Cause Escalation

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