Emboldened Kosovo Stokes Tension With Serbia After Getting Blinken's Blessing, Expert Says
© Sputnik / Gavro DešićJarinje checkpoint on the administrative line between Central Serbia and Kosovo
© Sputnik / Gavro Dešić
BRUSSELS, (Sputnik) - Kosovo has been emboldened by the United States to act on the threat to restrict movement between its Serb-majority north and Serbia, causing an inevitable escalation on their shared border, political analyst Nicola Mirkovic told Sputnik.
Kosovo said those traveling to Serbia and Serbian visitors to Kosovo would need Kosovo-issued entry-exit documents and license plates to travel from August 1. The move led to an uproar among ethnic Serbs who set up roadblocks near border crossings overnight, prompting the pro-Kosovo NATO force to threaten protesters with a response “if stability is jeopardized.”
The flare-up, the worst since October raids on Serbian shop owners, comes on the heels of a meeting in Washington between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Kosovo politicians. The White House said on July 26 that Blinken had assured Kosovo’s de facto leader Albin Kurti of an enduring partnership between the Biden administration and Pristina.
“The Kosovo strongman Albin Kurti discussed with Secretary of State Blinken the way to revive tensions in this pivotal region of the West Balkans… The region has to thank Mr. Blinken for that worsening of a sensitive situation in 24 hours. It could rapidly degenerate,” Mirkovic said.
Kurti said on Sunday that his government had pledged to postpone the implementation of the travel regulations by a month during a meeting with US Ambassadors Jeffrey Hovenier and European international envoys on condition that all barricades were removed.
EU special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajcak rushed to praise the truce, only to be rebuked by Kosovo's foreign policy chief Donika Gervalla-Schwarz who argued that nothing would be postponed without "reciprocity" from Serbs. Kosovo blamed Serbia for the spike in tensions, which Kurti claimed were “instigated and planned” by Belgrade.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called for peace but warned of repercussions if Kosovo tried to persecute Serbian protesters. Mirkovic praised Vucic for emphasizing the complexity of the situation, which he said would remain volatile as long as Pristina continued pressing with travel curbs.
1 August 2022, 09:16 GMT
The Albanian majority in Kosovo may see the Ukrainian conflict as an opportunity to gain more clout in the Balkans with Washington's help as Russia and China are dealing with problems on their own doorstep, the expert warned.
Mirkovic said the US was backing Kosovo to exert more pressure on Russia and its allies in the region. However, in doing so, it inadvertently opened Pandora’s Box of separatism in Europe, he added. Spain and Romania are two of the five EU member states that have not recognized Kosovo for fear this would further fuel the independence drive at home.