The US has called on the Serbian leadership to withdraw forces and ‘a large military buildup’ from the border with Kosovo, a separatist region. The buildup is a result of ongoing tensions between Kosovo’s majority Albanians and minority ethnic Serbs.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby Friday (Sep 29) described the “large military deployment” of sophisticated tanks and artillery as “a very destabilising development”.
Kirby also referred to an intense standoff between police and three Serbian armed men on Sunday (Sep 24) in the northeastern region of Kosovo, which resulted in the killing of four. Kosovo accused Serbia of orchestrating the attack.
“It’s worrisome. It doesn’t look like just a bunch of guys who got together to do this, we are calling on Serbia to withdraw those forces from the border,” Kirby said.
He claimed that the buildup took place over the last weekend and its purpose was not clear.
Blinken talks to Serbian president
John Kirby also mentioned that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had talked to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic over the phone and urged immediate de-escalation. On the other hand, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
It must be noted that the Serbian president has categorically denied that Serbia’s forces are on high alert near Kosovo’s border.
“I have denied untruths where they talk about the highest level of combat readiness of our forces, because I simply did not sign that and it is not accurate,” Vucic said, adding, “we don’t even have half the troops we had two or three months ago.”
UK sending more troops for NATO mission
Meanwhile, the UK has announced it will send more troops to NATO’s ‘peacekeeping mission’ in Kosovo in the wake of the “current situation.”
“Due to the current situation in Kosovo, we have transferred command of the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – a reserve force for NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) – to NATO so it can provide support if required,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
Also read: US joins Kosovo in investigating deadly violence
As tensions continue to rise, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday (Sep 28) that he had “authorised additional forces to address the current situation”.
It is the second time in three months that NATO has bolstered its forces in the country.