Kosovan PM given ultimatum to tackle tensions in north

Kosovan PM given ultimatum to tackle tensions in north
US envoy Gabriel Escobar emphasised that a lack of cooperation from Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti (pictured) would carry consequences.
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje June 7, 2023

The US envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar said on June 6 that Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti should respond to specific requests presented by him and the EU special envoy a day earlier, to calm down the situation in the country's north. 

It is evident that Kosovo's Western allies are losing patience with Pristina over the standoff in northern Kosovo, and if Kurti continues to refuse to cooperate, they may move from verbal warnings to concrete sanctions.

Escobar and EU special representative for Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Miroslav Lajcak met with Kurti on June 5 and outlined three demands aimed at calming the situation in northern Kosovo, organising new elections and resuming the dialogue with Serbia.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation in the north and call for immediate de-escalation on the ground, early elections with the participation of Kosovo Serbs and return to dialogue on normalisation,” Lajcak said in a tweet following the meeting.

Speaking to journalists on June 6, Escobar emphasised that a lack of cooperation from Kurti would carry consequences and indicated that progress would be assessed at the end of this week, according to Reporteri news portal.

He has added that the US, the EU and all international partners are united in their demands for calming and normalising the situation and if this does not happen, but the relations deteriorate, then the consequences for Kosovo will be long-term.

Kosovo-online reported that the two-hour meeting that Kurti held on June 5 with the US and EU emissaries Escobar and Lajcak ended without concrete results. Kurti still did not change his hard approach to the crisis in the north.

International mediators are now expected to swiftly respond to prevent escalating tensions in northern Kosovo, following the clashes between ethnic Serbs, KFOR and Kosovo’s special force units last week. Clashes erupted as Kosovo Serbs, who had boycotted the April local elections, gathered in front of municipal buildings with the aim of preventing the entry of Albanian mayors who were elected with less than a 4% turnout.

After meeting Escobar and Lajcak, President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani emphasised the possibility of organising new elections in the northern municipalities in line with the constitution. In this context, she highlighted the importance of ensuring democratic participation for citizens residing in these four municipalities.

In a Facebook post, Osmani further stated that sustainable and long-term stability can only be achieved through the punishment of criminal groups and individuals who have engaged in violence against the police, journalists, members of KFOR, EULEX and citizens.

She stressed the expectation that law enforcement institutions carry out their duties in accordance with the law, ensuring that those responsible for acts of violence face justice.

On June 5, Nato announced that 500 Turkish commandos began arriving in Kosovo as Nato reinforcements, following the recent violence that resulted in nearly 40 KFOR peacekeeping troops being injured in clashes.