Kosovo opposition blames PM Kurti for worsening relations with West over unrest in north

  • World
  • Friday, 02 Jun 2023

A person holds a placard as members of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) stand guard outside municipal offices in Leposavic, Kosovo, June 2, 2023. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo opposition parties on Friday blamed Prime Minister Albin Kurti for worsening relations with Western allies over violence in the north in which NATO peacekeepers were injured, and they called for a no-confidence motion against the government.

Unrest intensified in the area after elections in April that were boycotted by ethnic Serbs, handing victory in four Serb-majority mayoral districts in the north to ethnic Albanian candidates. Ethnic Albanians make up 90% of Kosovo's population.

Their installation last week despite a 3.5% voter turnout drew criticism from the United States, a backer of Kosovo's 2008 independence from Serbia. Washington scrapped Pristina's participation in a NATO exercise as a result.

The unrest prompted NATO to send more troops to Kosovo.

On Friday, Kosovo's parliament called a session to discuss the implications of the tensions in the north.

"You are playing with fire," Memli Krasniqi, of the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, told Kurti in the parliament.

"If the cost is to endanger the relations with Kosovo’s biggest allies after sanctions have started already I want to ask you is it worth it?," he said.

Former prime minister and leader of the Alliance for Change Ramush Haradinaj called on deputies to file no-confidence motion against the government.

"Let’s...stop this mistrust, humiliation, lies and treason by dismissing Kurti’s government," he told MPs.

At the European Political Community summit in Moldova on Thursday, France and Germany called on Kosovan authorities to organise new elections in the divided northern region.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged the formation of association of Serb municipalities, granted by Brussels agreement signed in 2013, but which Kurti has refused so far.

Kurti dismissed criticism and blamed Serbia for financing and supporting Serbs in the north, who do not recognise the 2008 declaration of independence and see Belgrade as their capital.

"It's worrying (US sanctions) but more worrying are the fascist militias in the north," Kurti told Kosovo KTV on Thursday evening.

Violence flared on Monday after Kosovan authorities, backed by special police units, installed ethnic Albanian mayors in offices in northern municipalities. The clashes wounded 30 NATO peacekeeping troops and 52 Serb protesters.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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