Serbia made its demand in mid-December when tensions in Kosovo soared over the arrest of an ethnic Serb former policemen that led to road blocks in the north of the country where ethnic Serbs mostly live.
Those tensions were later defused amid European Union and U.S. efforts to push forward an EU-mediated dialogue between the former Balkan war foes. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and the dispute remains a potential flashpoint.
In the most recent incident, an off-duty Kosovo security officer shot and wounded two ethnic Serbs last week in central Kosovo, including an 11-year-old boy. The man was arrested after the incident near the town of Strpce, Kosovo police said.
The conflict in Kosovo erupted when separatist ethnic Albanians launched a rebellion against Serbia’s rule and Belgrade responded with a brutal crackdown that prompted the NATO intervention. Some 13,000 people died in the conflict, mostly ethnic Albanians.
Serbia insists that hundreds of its security forces have the right to redeploy under a United Nations resolution that followed the war. Belgrade has said return of its troops to Kosovo would help lower tensions, a claim vehemently rejected by Kosovo and Western officials.
Vucic said KFOR’s response to Serbia’s demand was expected because of Western backing for Kosovo’s independence. Serbia has relied on Russia and China in its bid to retain its claim to its former province that many Serbs consider the nation’s heartland.
The West “was not worried about the wounding of the Serb boys,” Vucic complained on pro-government Pink television. “I did not expect a different answer from KFOR.”
Both Serbia and Kosovo have been told they must normalize relations if they want to advance toward EU membership. A senior U.S. delegation is set to visit the region next week to help push forward the deadlocked EU-mediated talks.
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