AP

Kosovo postpones election in ethnic-Serb-dominated north

Dec 9, 2022, 6:54 PM | Updated: Dec 10, 2022, 11:06 am

Serb national flags decorate the main square in ethnically divided town Serb dominated northern Mit...

Serb national flags decorate the main square in ethnically divided town Serb dominated northern Mitrovica on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Kosovo law enforcement on Friday said one officer was injured by gunmen after increasing police presence fearing tension in northern areas dominated by the ethnic Serb minority. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo on Saturday postponed a local election due Dec. 18 in four municipalities with a predominantly ethnic Serb population, in an effort to defuse recent tensions there that have also caused relations with neighboring Serbia to deteriorate further.

But Serbia’s president said he will formally request NATO permission to deploy Serbian troops in northern Kosovo, while conceding this was most unlikely to be granted.

The return of Belgrade’s troops to the former Serbian province could dramatically increase tensions in the Balkans.

Earlier, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani met with her country’s political leaders and decided to hold the vote in the northern municipalities on April 23 next year.

The election in Northern Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvecan and Leposavic was due after ethnic Serb representatives resigned their posts in November to protest a decision by Kosovo’s government to ban Serbia-issued vehicle license plates.

Serb lawmakers, prosecutors and police officers also abandoned local government posts.

Tension in the north has been high ahead of the scheduled vote. This week, unknown gunmen shot and wounded a Kosovo law enforcement officer, some election centers were damaged and shooting was heard in those municipalities.

Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Zvecla said Saturday that after the arrest of a former Serb police officer accused of attacking election centers and officials, some roads in the north have been blocked by “extremist groups.”

The Kosovar police presence recently was increased in those areas and the European Union’s rule of law mission, or EULEX has been present with its police officers too.

Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008. But Belgrade, supported by Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Saturday that Belgrade will formally ask the commander of the NATO-led peacekeeper mission in Kosovo to deploy Serbian troops there, but added that he “has no illusions that this will be accepted.”

The request had been heralded Friday by Serbia’s prime minister, who claimed that the lives of minority Serbs in Kosovo were under threat.

Serbian officials claim a United Nations resolution that formally ended Belgrade’s bloody crackdown on majority Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999 allows for some 1,000 Serb troops to return to Kosovo. NATO bombed Serbia to end the war and push its troops out of Kosovo.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo since the war would have to give a green light for Serb troops to go there, something highly unlikely because it would de facto mean handing over security of Kosovo’s Serb-populated northern regions to Serbian forces.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s office said any such move from Serbia would be “an act of aggression” and an indication of “Serbia’s tendencies to destabilize the region.”

The European Union has warned Serbia and Kosovo to resolve their dispute and normalize relations to be eligible for membership in the bloc.

___

Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

___

Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

10 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

2 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

2 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

3 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

4 days ago

Kosovo postpones election in ethnic-Serb-dominated north