Under EU pressure, Kosovo and Serbia presidents meet.

Under EU pressure, Kosovo and Serbia presidents meet.
Image: Reuters

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia met on Thursday to try to resolve a political crisis that has devolved into violence, with France and Germany urging them to act quickly.

Kosovo’s Vjosa Osmani and Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic met briefly on the sidelines of a Moldova summit.

The latest conflict between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-dominated government and the ethnic Serb majority in the north has alarmed the EU and the US.

On Monday, Kosovo authorities and special police units installed ethnic Albanian mayors in northern municipalities, resulting in violence. Following the boycott of local elections by Serbs, 3.5% of voters elected mayors.

Thirty NATO peacekeepers and 52 Serb protesters were injured in the clashes.

Following their meeting, Osmani described Vucic as “whining and complaining and… not telling the truth.” If legally required, she said, Kosovo could hold new northern elections with Serb participation.

That would meet Macron and Scholz’s condition for crisis resolution.

“It’s critical that everyone involved does everything possible to achieve a de-escalation,” Scholz told reporters following the European Political Community summit, a forum founded last year that brings together more than 40 leaders.

Osmani stated that “a de-escalation solution is very close,” but Belgrade must follow through on its March commitments to normalize relations between the two sides, who fought a war in the 1990s.

“We need to ensure that the focus is on full implementation of the agreement, not just parts of it,” she said.

Macron stated that Paris and Berlin had demanded “as soon as possible” Serb-led elections in the four northern municipalities.

They also urged Kosovo to form an association of Serb municipalities in order to give northern Serbs more autonomy.

Macron has asked both sides for “clear answers” by next week.

Vucic left the summit without commenting on the meeting with Osmani.

After initially refusing, both leaders agreed to meet under international pressure.

They did not acknowledge each other at the summit, despite standing just meters apart on the red carpet.

Vucic demanded the removal of “alleged mayors” from the north and declared the Kosovo special police units unconstitutional.

“Serbia will do everything possible to de-escalate the situation,” he said. “We will try to persuade Serbs to proceed calmly and peacefully.”

“They’re very determined,” he said. “They want special police units gone.”

Osmani claimed that Belgrade was attempting to destabilize Kosovo because it had not recognized Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade denies that Vucic is a supporter of criminal gangs in northern Kosovo.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has led operations in the north, drawing criticism from the United States, the country’s closest ally.

In response to the crisis, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Thursday that 700 more peacekeepers would be sent to Kosovo.

NATO will keep an eye on things. He told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Oslo, “We will be there to ensure a safe and secure environment, as well as to calm down and reduce tensions.”

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