Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo, declared on Thursday that he would not change his mind over the decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in Serb majority regions. This action sparked riots and prompted NATO to dispatch extra troops to the area.
Kurti advised mayors to report to work in their offices, according to Kosovo Albanian media. “We must return to normalcy…If public facilities for state officials aren’t utilised, what good are they?
Unrest in Kosovo’s north has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the region’s Serb-majority area, a move that led the U.S. and its allies to rebuke Pristina. The majority Serb population had boycotted the April election, allowing ethnic Albanians to win the poll.
In violence on Monday, 30 peacekeepers and 52 Serbs who protested against the installation of ethnic-Albanian mayors were injured.
The violence prompted NATO to announce it would send additional troops on top of 700 already on their way to the Balkan country to boost its 4,000 strong mission.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Oslo called on Kosovo and Serbia “to take steps to de-escalate” tension in the north Kosovo region which borders Serbia.
“We support the process of Euro-Atlantic integration for Kosovo and for Serbia, but the current escalation hinders, rather than helps the efforts to move in that direction.”
Some 50,000 Serbs who live in the north of the country do not recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and see Belgrade as its capital.
Serbs refuse to accept April’s election results and say low turnout of 3.5% makes them illegitimate.
“They (the mayors) have to leave this area because they are not representing anything,” deputy head of the Serb List, the biggest Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party, Igor Simic told Reuters on Wednesday.
Lulzim Hetemi, an ethnic Albanian mayor in Leposavic, has been in his office since early Monday with NATO peacekeepers guarding the town hall behind razor blade wire. His counterparts from Zvecan and Zubin Potok have been working remotely from their home villages.