Top US diplomat condemns Kosovo after clashes in majority-Serb town

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 16, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday condemned the government of Kosovo for accessing municipal buildings in the country's north by force and called on Prime Minister Albin Kurti to reverse course.

Kosovo's police force fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in front of a municipal building in the majority-Serb town of Zvecan earlier on Friday, amid protests following widely-boycotted local elections.

Blinken in a statement said Kosovo's actions went against U.S. and European advice and "have sharply and unnecessarily escalated tensions, undermining our efforts to help normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia and will have consequences for our bilateral relations with Kosovo."

He called on all sides to "refrain from any further actions that will inflame tensions and promote conflict."

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed the country's army on full combat alert and ordered army units to move closer to the border with Kosovo after the clashes.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Mark Porter and Paul Simao)

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