US Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier has said that the US will impose sanctions on Kosovo over recent tensions in the north.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in the capital Pristina, Hovenier said the Kosovo government did not coordinate with the US regarding the actions carried out in the north where ethnic Serbs are protesting the election of Albanian mayors.
Defender Europe 2023, the largest military exercise of NATO allies in the Balkan region, has come to an end for Kosovo and this will be the first of the sanctions, said Hovenier.
He added that this crisis will affect the relations between Kosovo and the US.
"We think this is a very urgent situation. The comparison I made is that you need to put out the fire, just like your house is on fire. Therefore, in terms of our expectations for the government to take action to pacify the situation in the north, we think that this is a very urgent situation. I don't think you'll see much patience," said Hovenier.
In addition, Hovenier announced that sanctions such as blocking Kosovo leaders' visits to the US and stopping US lobbying activities against countries that do not recognize Kosovo's independence could be imposed.
Hovenier asked Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti to not insist that controversial mayors work in municipal buildings and that the police units be withdrawn from these buildings.
"We believe that the government should not insist that mayors work in municipal buildings. The government managed to find alternative locations where they took their oaths. We do not understand why they could not use these alternative locations or other public buildings to perform administrative functions," said Hovenier.
Hovvenier said that the US wants the mayors of the four majority Serb municipalities to perform only administrative functions because they do not have strong mandates.
"There is a need for elected officials to proceed very cautiously, to accept that they do not have a large political mandate to bring about changes," said Hovenier.
Kosovo prime minister backs new mayors
Prime Minister Kurti on the other hand said that the new mayors have the government's full unconditional support along with the police units.
"The Kosovo Police and the NATO-led international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) in the north of Kosovo are the border between violent extremists and peaceful institutions," he said.
Kurti claimed that the elected municipal presidents are the only ones with the legitimacy to be in municipal buildings and at the service of citizens.
"Therefore, they have our full, unconditional and unwavering support," said Kurti.
The remarks came despite condemnation by the EU, US, NATO, and China as well as Germany and many other countries.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded that Kosovo halt the violent measures.
China on Tuesday put its weight behind Serbia amid the Balkan nation’s renewed conflict with neighboring Kosovo.
At least 30 soldiers of the NATO-led international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) were injured on Monday in clashes with protesting Serbs.
Tensions have gripped Kosovo with protesters and security forces clashing in the country's northern Serb-dominated municipalities over the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.
Meanwhile, more than 53 civilians suffered injuries from shock bombs and tear gas, hospital sources said.
Contentious mayoral elections
Since Monday morning, Serb protesters have gathered outside the Serb-dominated Zvecan Municipality in northern Kosovo to bar newly elected Albanian mayors from entering municipal buildings.
The protesters attempted to breach the police cordon in front of the town hall, the police said in a statement, adding that they used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
KFOR units also used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters, who did not retreat and responded with stones and sticks.
Last month, Kosovo Serbs boycotted extraordinary local government elections for four municipalities in the country's north. Only 3.47% of eligible voters cast ballots, according to the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ).
After the elections, the EU said in a statement that low turnout did not provide the municipalities with long-term political solutions.
As tensions rose in the region, neighboring Serbia ordered its army to advance to the border with Kosovo – which Serbia claims to be its own territory – and urged NATO to “stop the violence against local Serbs in Kosovo.”
The EU requires Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final agreement and resolve disputes to progress in their integration into the bloc.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.