NATO sends troops to the Balkans: seven questions to understand why the drums of war are ringing in Kosovo

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As the war in Ukraine approaches 16 months of conflict, alarm bells are ringing in the Balkans, where NATO has announced it will send more troops, about 700 soldiers, to swell the ranks of its peacekeeping mission, KFOR by about 3,800 soldiers. Why?

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THE tensions between Serbia and Kosovo erupted again this weekend after Kosovo police raided Serb-dominated areas in the north of the region and seized municipal buildings.

Era violent clashes between Kosovo Police and NATO-led peacekeepers on one side, and local Serbs on the other, resulting in dozens of injuries on both sides.

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KFOR checkpoint in Kosovo.  Photo: Reuters

KFOR checkpoint in Kosovo. Photo: Reuters

Serbia has increased combat readiness of his troops stationed near the border and warned him he won’t be watching if the Kosovo Serbs are attacked again. The situation has once again fueled the fear of a resurgence of the 1998-99 Kosovo conflictwhich claimed more than 10,000 lives and left more than a million people homeless.

Why are Serbia and Kosovo fighting?

Kosovo is a territory populated mainly by ethnic Albanian which was a province of Serbia. It declared its independence in 2008.

Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo as a state and he still considers it part of Serbiaeven if you have no formal control over it.

Kosovo’s independence was recognized by a hundred countries, including the United States. Russia and China sided with Serbia. The stagnation of the situation keeps tensions going boiling and prevents the full stabilization of the Balkan region after the bloody wars of the 90s.

Painted on a mural dedicated to Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, in a Serbian neighborhood in Kosovo.  Photo: Armend Nimani / AFP

Painted on a mural dedicated to Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, in a Serbian neighborhood in Kosovo. Photo: Armend Nimani / AFP

How did Serbia’s allies react?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation in Kosovo it is alarming and which could provoke another conflict in Central Europe.

“A huge explosion is brewing in the center of Europe, at the place where, in 1999, NATO attacked Yugoslavia, violating every imaginable (international) principle,” he said, Russia’s state news agency reported. RIA Novosti.

China reported it followed events closely.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Nin urged NATO to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity “of the countries concerned and truly do what is conducive to regional peace”.

What is the latest outburst about?

After the Serbs boycotted the municipal elections Held last month in northern Kosovo, where Serbs form the majority, newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors moved into their offices on Friday with the help of Kosovo riot police.

The Serbs tried to stop them from occupying the buildings, but the police fired tear gas to disperse them.

"Kfor, assassins," reads the message on a T-shirt.  Photo: EFE

“Kfor, assassins,” reads the message on a T-shirt. Photo: EFE

The Serbs got busy on Monday hard fights with NATO peacekeepers, leaving more than 50 protesters and 30 international soldiers injured.

How deep is the ethnic conflict in Kosovo?

The dispute over Kosovo it’s centuries old. Serbia considers the region to be the heart of its state and religion.

In Kosovo there are many medieval monasteries of Serbian Orthodox Christians. Serbian nationalists consider the 1389 battle against the Ottoman Turks a symbol of the national struggle.

The ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, who they are majorityconsider Kosovo their country e accuse Serbia of occupation and repression. Ethnic Albanian rebels launched an uprising in 1998 to liberate the country from Serbian rule.

NATO soldiers erected barricades to prevent the passage of protesters.  Photo: EFE

NATO soldiers erected barricades to prevent the passage of protesters. Photo: EFE

Belgrade’s brutal response in 1999 prompted a NATO intervention which forced Serbia to withdraw and hand over control to international peacekeepers.

Were there any attempts to resolve the conflict?

There have been ongoing international efforts to find common ground between the two former war enemies, but so far No broad definitive agreement has been reached.

EU officials brokered the negotiations trying to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Numerous agreements were reached during the negotiations, but rarely implemented. Results have been seen in some areas, such as the implementation of free movement within the country.

Who are the main actors?

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.  Photo: Michal Cizek / AFP

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Photo: Michal Cizek / AFP

Both Kosovo and Serbia are led by nationalist leaders who have not shown themselves willing to reach an agreement with mutual concessions.

In Kosovo, Albin Kurti, former student leader and political prisoner from Serbia, heads the government and is the lead negotiator in EU-brokered talks. He is also known to be a strong supporter of the unification of Kosovo with Albania and opposes any concessions to Serbia.

Serbia is led by populist president Aleksandar Vucic, who was Minister of Information during the Kosovo War. The former ultranationalist insists that any solution, to be lasting, must include an agreement with reciprocal concessions and says that the country will not accept if it does not win something.

What will happen now?

International officials hope to speed up negotiations and reach a solution in the coming months.

Both nations need to normalize their ties if they are to move towards EU membership. No major progress would mean prolonged instability, economic decline, and the constant possibility of confrontation.

Any Serbian military intervention in Kosovo it would mean a confrontation with NATO peacekeeping forces I bet


Source: Clarin

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