Turkey deploys commandos in Kosovo after violent protests

Turkey deploys commandos in Kosovo after violent protests
Turkey has good relations with predominantly Muslim Kosovo. / msb.gov.tr
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje June 4, 2023

Turkey has announced the deployment of commandos in northern Kosovo, aiming to address the mounting tensions in the region in response to a request made by Nato.

The Turkish defence ministry said on June 3 that the deployment is planned to take place on June 4-5.

The commando battalion, previously assigned to Nato-led KFOR, will serve as a reserve unit under the 65th Mechanised Infantry Brigade Command.

Turkey, known for its good relations with predominantly Muslim Kosovo, emphasised the need for restraint and dialogue to resolve the recent events and maintain regional security and stability.

While the situation in northern Kosovo remains relatively calm, Kosovo Serbs have continued to gather near the occupied buildings of local self-governments on June 4.

These buildings have been inaccessible to the Kosovo Serbs since they were occupied by special units of the Kosovo Police. KFOR remains positioned near the municipal building and on all approaches to Zvecan, the site of violent clashes at the end of May.

US envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, expressed concerns in an interview with the BBC regarding the situation in northern Kosovo, attributing the escalation partly to Prime Minister Albin Kurti's lack of willingness to listen to the international community, Kosovo-online reported on June 4. 

Escobar emphasised that alternative working spaces exist and called for a de-escalation of tensions.

Despite US efforts to coordinate with the Kosovo government, there was resistance from Pristina. Kurti reiterated the importance of municipal buildings in the north as workplaces for mayors, asserting that the mayors remain in their offices.

In an effort to address the rising tensions in northern Kosovo, Escobar and the EU's special representative for dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, will visit Kosovo and Serbia on June 5-6.

Last week, EU High Representative Josep Borrell and other EU countries’ leaders called for immediate new elections in northern Kosovo, as Kurti openly rejected US demands for Kosovo’s police to withdraw from the municipal buildings in three Serbian-majority municipalities.

The tensions in the north are related to the April local elections in northern Kosovo, which were boycotted by the main party of the Kosovo Serbs, the Serb List. The four mayors were elected with less than 4% of the vote.