EU condemns violence in Kosovo, will keep talking to all parties; NATO ready to deploy more troops

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CHISINAU, June 1 (Reuters) – EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell repeated on Thursday that violence in Kosovo had to be condemned, adding he would continue to speak to the parties involved .

On the sidelines of a European summit in Moldova, Borrell said he had urged Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Slovakia on Wednesday to play his part in defusing the crisis, adding he hoped to convey the same message to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Moldova.

Kosovo’s president Vjosa Osmani said on Thursday said Serbia needs to stop its activities aimed at destabilising Kosovo in order to end the violence in the north of the country,.

“The challenge comes from Serbia, a country that still needs to come to terms with its past,” Osmani told Reuters on the sidelines of a European summit in Moldova.

“The situation is tense, but we need to make sure that we restore rule of law in Kosovo and understand that the threat is coming from Serbia’s denial of Kosovo’s existence as a sovereign state.”

Osmani said Serbia was actively supporting “illegal structures” in Kosovo to destabilise the country from within.

“President Vucic needs to stop supporting criminal gangs if he truly wants peace,” she said. “He is yet to show that.”

NATO is prepared to deploy more troops to Kosovo to quell violence in the ethnically polarized north, the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, adding that the first 700 reinforcement troops are on the way there.

“NATO will remain vigilant. We will be there to ensure a safe and secure environment, and also to calm down and reduce tensions”, he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Oslo.

Unrest in Kosovo’s north has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the region’s Serb-majority area after April elections boycotted by the Serbs, a move that led the U.S. and its allies to rebuke Pristina.

NATO decided to boost its 4,000-strong mission in the region with 700 additional troops after 30 of its KFOR peacekeepers and 52 ethnic Serb protesters were hurt on Monday.

Stoltenberg called the violence against NATO troops “totally unacceptable” and said allies were readying more troops in case NATO needed to send additional reinforcements to the region.

“Our message both to Belgrade and to Pristina is that they have to have engage in good faith in the EU-facilitated dialogue,” he added.

Photo – The Serbian flag is flying attached to the fence next to the soldiers of the NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) who stand guard in front of the building of the municipality in Zvecan, Kosovo. EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

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