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UN worried about ‘atmosphere of mutual suspicion’ in Kosovo

AFP – The United Nations (UN) on Monday expressed concern over the “atmosphere of mutual suspicion” in Kosovo, calling for “critical” de-escalatory measures between it and Serbia.

Tensions between Pristina and Belgrade have been heightened since a police officer was killed last month in an ambush in Kosovo’s restive north, allegedly by a paramilitary unit made up of Kosovo Serbs.

“The major events on September 24 exacerbated an already deteriorating security environment characterised by an atmosphere of mutual suspicion… touching much of the population, especially in northern Kosovo and among Kosovo-Serb communities,” head of the UN’s mission Kosovo Caroline Ziadeh told the UN Security Council.

Animosity between Kosovo and Serbia has persisted since a war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in the late 1990s that drew NATO intervention against Belgrade.

Kosovo, which counts 120,000 Serbs among its 1.8 million people, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, in a move Belgrade has never recognised.

But existing tensions have been heightened in Kosovo’s north for months.

“The current political impasse, with its impact on the security and well-being of the population, can only be overcome through compromise,” Ziadeh said.

“De-escalatory measures are critical to reduce tensions,” she said, adding she hoped that recent European Union- and United States-organised meetings with officials in Pristina and Belgrade would help “place the dialogue back on a forward path”.

Plans to establish an association of majority-Serb municipalities in Kosovo that would operate with some autonomy “should begin without delay or preconditions”, Ziadeh said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in a group photo with diplomats from Europe and the United States in Belgrade, Serbia. PHOTO: AP