Kosovo prime minister asks for more NATO peacekeepers amid heightened tensions

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There is an urgent need for further NATO troops in Kosovo due to “threats from Serbia and Russia,” the small Balkan country’s prime minister said on Friday.

The comment came amid weeks of heightened tensions between Prishtina and Belgrade after the Kosovo government announced it would introduce reciprocity measures affecting Serbian citizens, involving entry documents and licence plates.

In an interview with the German outlet Welt, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that the additional peacekeeping forces would “definitely improve (Kosovo’s) security”.

“KFOR troops can help us further expand our security structures and capacities,” he said.

Brussels and Washington continue their diplomatic offensive

Tensions soared anew late last month when Kosovo’s government declared that Serbian-issued identity documents and vehicle license plates would no longer be valid within its territory, a response to Kosovo-issued documents not being valid in Serbia.

Although ethnic Serbs living in the north of the country immediately responded by putting up barricades, the situation on the ground was quickly calmed after EU police forces and KFOR came to the scene, while the EU and US officials organised a meeting between Prishtina and Belgrade in Brussels.

However, the talks failed to produce any concrete results, with the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell stating that the two sides pledged to hold further meetings to try to find a solution to the issue.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić responded to the crisis by stating that Belgrade wants peace but will not hesitate to protect the ethnic Serbs in the north.

On Thursday, US and EU envoys for Kosovo and the wider Western Balkans region, Gabriel Escobar and Miroslav Lajčak, met with Vučić and held talks with Kosovo Serb leaders in a bid to further deescalate the crisis.

Following Thursday’s meeting, both Lajčak and Escobar refused to disclose details, but Lajčak emphasised that the talks were not about winners or losers but “about the people who live in Kosovo”.

Vučić said on Instagram that the three “had no easy talks,” adding that “we will not give up our vital national and state interests, primarily the interests of our people, your security.”

Lajčak and Escobar said that they have also asked Kurti to postpone the implementation of the rules that have caused the most recent controversy, Euronews Albania reported.

Meanwhile, Kosovo’s prime minister insisted the new regulations would come into force starting 1 September while leaving the door open to the possibility of a different arrangement altogether.

“I am ready to shake hands with Vučić. If Serbia agrees to waive border controls in the future, then we will do the same,” Kurti said.