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The United States concerned by the significant Serbian military mobilization near Kosovo | Conflict News


The United States urges Belgrade to withdraw after the deployment of Serbian tanks and artillery near the Kosovo border.

The United States has urged Belgrade to withdraw its forces from the border with Kosovo after detecting what it called an “unprecedented” Serbian military buildup.

Serbia has deployed sophisticated tanks and artillery near the border with Kosovo after deadly clashes broke out last weekend at a monastery in northern Kosovo, the White House warned Friday.

The violence – in which a Kosovar policeman and three Serbian gunmen were killed – marked one of the most serious escalations of tension in years between Serbia and the former breakaway province of Kosovo.

“We are monitoring a significant Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“This includes an unprecedented display of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units. We think this is a very destabilizing development,” he said.

“We call on Serbia to withdraw these forces from the border,” he added.

Preparation took place last week, although its purpose was not yet clear, Kirby said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday to ask for “immediate de-escalation and a return to dialogue”, Kirby added.

Vucic did not directly deny the existence of a recent concentration, but rejected claims that his country’s forces were on high alert.

“I denied the untruths that they are talking about the highest level of combat readiness of our forces because I simply did not sign that and it is not accurate,” Vucic told reporters on Friday.

“We don’t even have half the troops we had two or three months ago.”

Serbia said on Wednesday that the defense minister and the head of the armed forces had gone to visit a “deployment zone”, but gave no further details.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also spoke with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and “expressed concerns regarding Serbian military mobilizations,” according to a statement following the call.

Kurti later said on social media that he had “asked for more help from the United States against Serbia’s war plans.”

The two men also “discussed the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which Sullivan said was the only long-term solution to ensure stability throughout Kosovo,” according to a statement from the ‘phone call.

The military buildup follows last weekend’s clashes that began when heavily armed Serbian gunmen ambushed a patrol a few kilometers from the Serbian border, killing a Kosovar policeman.

Several dozen attackers then barricaded themselves in an Orthodox monastery, triggering an hour-long exchange of fire during which three armed men were killed and three arrested.

Kosovo’s government has accused Belgrade of supporting the armed operation, while a member of a key Kosovo Serb political party admitted to leading the gunmen, his lawyer said Friday.

Kirby said the attack had a “very high level of sophistication”, involving around 20 vehicles, weapons, equipment and “military grade” training.

“It’s worrying. It doesn’t look like just a group of guys who got together to do this,” he said.

The NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, known as KFOR, will “increase its presence” following the attack, Kirby added.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the alliance was ready to strengthen the KFOR force to deal with the situation.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in a bloody war in 1998-99 and declared independence in 2008 – a status that Belgrade and Moscow have refused to recognize.

Relations have long been strained between Kosovo’s Albanian majority and the Serb minority, and tensions have sharply escalated in recent months in northern Kosovo.




aljazeera

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