The United States has expelled Kosovo from an American-led NATO military exercise, Defender 23, running from April to June in Europe with the participation of about twenty allied countries. This was announced by the US ambassador in Pristina, Jeffrey Hovenier. "For Kosovo this exercise is over," he told local media after Prime Minister Albin Kurti refused to withdraw Kosovar-Albanian mayors from the north of the country, a Serb-majority area. This is the first US sanction against the Kosovar government since the resurgence of ethnic tensions.
Prime Minister of Kosovo, 'surprised by US, overreaction' - Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurtin, in an interview with Politico.eu, called the US reaction against Kosovo surprising after the latest violent clashes that caused the injury of members of the NATO KFOR contingent on the spot. "We have a slight difference in approach. Thinking about sanctions against Kosovo seems disproportionate and unfair," he said. "I was surprised," he said, calling the U.S. reaction an "overreaction." Kurti, asked about the topic, replied that the current situation "may" degenerate into a wider conflict. But it "depends" on Belgrade, he added.
Two of the Italian soldiers of KFOR involved in the clashes in Zvecan in Kosovo, after receiving first aid, will return to Italy in the coming days. Their condition is improving. This was announced by the Ministry of Defense. The units of the Italian army, belonging to the ninth Alpini regiment, had intervened in conjunction with the other forces of the KFOR (Kosovo force) and the Kosovo police, to restore order and protect public infrastructure in Zvecan, in northern Kosovo.
In Kosovo "the current situation is dangerous and unsustainable. We need an urgent de-escalation and a solution through dialogue to get back to work on the implementation of the agreement reached." This was written in a tweet by EU High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting in Bratislava with Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti "to discuss tensions in northern Kosovo"
Kurti, I will evaluate new elections in the north if clashes end - Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said he is willing to consider early elections in northern Kosovo if the violence ends. "If it had been a peaceful protest, it would have had my understanding, but not a crazy demonstration with the letter Z, where they shoot soldiers and policemen, throw grenades, shouting 'kill, kill'. To this fascist crowd, we do not surrender our democratic Republic. If they protest peacefully to demand early elections, they have a prime minister who is more than willing to listen to them and maybe agrees with them," Kurti said in Bratislava as quoted by the Guardian.
Crosetto hears the Serbian minister, 'easing tensions' - "Italy has been engaged for years in this strategic region for the whole of Europe and will continue to do its part to promote an easing of tensions in Kosovo. The international community calls on the parties to commit themselves to a rapid return to normality and to restore diplomacy and dialogue to a prominent role". So the Minister of Defense, Guido Crosetto, during the long and intense telephone conversation this afternoon with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Serbia, Miloš Vučević. The Serbian minister - explains the Defense in a note - shared the need to reach a sustainable solution as soon as possible and expressed his closeness to the KFOR personnel injured in the incidents of recent days in Zvecan. Crosetto had already invited to overcome the contrasts and bring the parties back to a peaceful dialogue, stressing the importance of "committing to restore calm and resume the path of dialogue and diplomacy".
"NATO and our military will remain to guarantee stability and to prevent the deterioration of the situation." This was stated by the Vice-President of the Council and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani in relation to the situation in Kosovo, a situation on which - as the minister himself specified - "we will take stock" at the NATO summit in Oslo to be held today and tomorrow. The minister, speaking on the sidelines of an initiative at the Farnesina on the goal of sustainable development, also said that he had spoken several times in recent days with Vucic and Kurti. "At the moment - he added - there are no responsibilities of Serbia. I have asked the Kosovar Prime Minister to suspend the installation of mayors representing the Albanian-speaking population in that part of Kosovo precisely in order to avoid tensions. Great prudence and great restraint are needed. They are two candidate countries to join the EU. We must ensure that the path is positive. But in this way there is a risk of distancing participation in the EU also with regard to Kosovo". Tajani stressed that "being a member of the EU requires certain choices. Therefore, I call for calm and peace. But enough with unilateral initiatives that can cause accidents and can make the situation in the Balkans more complicated". The Foreign Minister reiterated that "Italy is strongly committed. He is part of the quintet that works for peace and stability. Yesterday our ambassador in Belgrade also attended the meeting with President Vucic. I repeat, no responsibility of Serbia has emerged."
Why fighting in Kosovo
"The attack on our military is unacceptable." This was stated by Vice President and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani referring to the attack in Kosovo in recent days. The minister also said that the injured "are all quite well even those who have had more complicated injuries. They are not in any danger." In particular, one soldier "is hospitalized in Skopje, the other soldier is hospitalized in Pristina; the others are all hospitalized in the infirmary of the Italian contingent in Pristina". "I - continued Tajani - am in continuous contact with the ambassador, I have spoken with General Figliuolo who is there, with Minister Crosetto". On the Italian side, there is "a political strategy to promote a political agreement between the parties, to apply what had been achieved with European mediation".
Russia "unconditionally" supports Serbia, "is following developments very closely" in Kosovo and is "worried". This was said by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by RIA Novosti. "All legitimate interests of Kosovo Serbs must be respected and there must be no place for provocative actions that violate their rights," Peskov added.
"I welcome NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's decision to deploy an additional 700 troops to Kosovo. We will continue our close coordination and cooperation with NATO's KFOR mission in Kosovo also through our Eulex mission. Calm must be restored now." This was written in a tweet by the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, after the decision of the Transatlantic Alliance to send reinforcements in the aftermath of violent clashes between Serbian protesters and Kosovo police.