Serbia is in the midst of carrying out an "unprecedented" military deployment along its border with Kosovo, the White House said Friday as it called on Belgrade to withdraw its forces.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the US was "monitoring" what he called a "large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo" that has been taking place over the past week. It includes advanced artillery, tanks, and mechanized infantry unit, he said.
"We believe that this is a very destabilizing development," said Kirby. "We are calling on Serbia to withdraw those forces from the border and to contribute to lowering the temperature."
The US is working with NATO to address the deployment and the NATO-led international peacekeeping force known as KFOR will increase its forces in northern Kosovo, said Kirby.
"The United States continues to work intensively with our European partners to press both Kosovo and Serbia to return to peaceful dialogue through the established European Union facilitated format. Both countries need to fulfill their existing commitments and engage in this process with good faith," he said.
"Both countries also need to avoid taking provocative steps that only heighten tension and obstruct progress in that dialogue, steps like what we've seen with this increase in Serbian buildup at the border," he added.
On Sunday, a clash broke out in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo near the Serbian border when a group of armed Serbs blocked a bridge with two trucks. A shootout erupted after the group opened fire on police, leaving one police officer dead and another injured.
The area has been the scene of unrest since April, when local ethnic Serbs boycotted elections in northern Kosovo, followed by protests against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.
Albanians are by far the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, with about half living in the country's north.
Kirby said the "troubling cycle of sporadic violence has gotten worse" in recent months, and said this weekend's attack was "well-coordinated and planned" with the assailants using about 20 SUVs being used to transport "a weapons cache of alarming quantity and sophistication."
"This is not the kind of attack it's carried out randomly, or ad hoc, or by some small group. The amounts and the types of arms that were found represent a threat to the safety of not only Kosovo personnel, but international personnel, including NATO troops," said Kirby.
"Everyone who was involved in planning and carrying out this attack needs to be brought to justice," he added, urging Serbian authorities to assist in the investigation.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and gained recognition from many countries, including Türkiye. But Belgrade has never recognized Kosovo and claims the territory as its own.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.