Kosovo says Serbia's behaviour same as Russia's before Ukraine invasion

  • World
  • Monday, 02 Oct 2023

FILE PHOTO-Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia, September 28, 2023. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Serbia's troop deployment on Kosovo's border recalls Russia's behaviour towards Ukraine before its invasion, the Kosovar foreign minister said, urging the European Union to take action against Belgrade such as freezing its candidacy status.

The warning comes after the United States said on Friday it was monitoring a troubling Serbian military build-up along the Kosovo frontier that is destabilising the area, and NATO said it was authorizing additional peacekeeping forces for Kosovo.

"There has never been this kind of concentration of troops in recent years," Kosovar Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in an interview on Monday. "The weaponry they have there, the tanks - it gives us a bad feeling because we don't know how the international community will respond."

She said it was not just the concentration of troops on the edge of its former southern province, whose independence Belgrade does not recognise, but also Serbia's rhetoric and its "methods" resembling Russian behaviour towards Ukraine.

"That's why it is all the more important to take the necessary steps," she said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said last week he did not intend to order his forces to cross the border into Kosovo because an escalation of the conflict would harm Belgrade's aspirations to join the EU.

Tensions have run high between the two countries since a battle between police and armed ethnic Serbs holed up in a monastery turned a quiet village in northern Kosovo into a virtual war zone 10 days ago.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and 1999 NATO intervention, accuses Serbia of arming and supporting the Serb fighters.

Serbia accuses Kosovo of precipitating violence by failing to implement a decade-old, EU-brokered deal providing for local autonomy for Serbs in an area of the country's north where they form a majority.

"Vucic will not leave it at this if clear words are not spoken and he does not see consequences for his actions," Gervalla-Schwarz warned, noting that could include suspending EU funds for Serbia and the country's membership candidacy status.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; editing by Miranda Murray and Mark Heinrich)

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