American and European officials are calling on Kosovo and Serbia to de-escalate tensions in northern Kosovo where at least 30 UN peacekeepers (pictured) and dozens of civilians have been injured in ethnic clashes. File Photo by Georgi Licovski/EPA-EFE
June 3 (UPI) -- American and European officials are calling on the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to de-escalate tensions in northern Kosovo where dozens of citizens and UN peacekeepers have been hurt during protests.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jon Finer spoke by phone with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti Friday, the White House confirmed in a statement.
During the call, Finer "underscored the United States' concern about the tense situation in northern Kosovo and called for all parties to take steps aimed at de-escalating the situation."
Tensions have been high since late May when several northern Kosovo towns elected ethnic Albanian mayors in populations that are majority Serbian.
That led to protests in the towns Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok where Serbian protesters occupied and blocked entrances to municipal buildings, stopping the newly-elected mayors from entering.
Violent clashes have now left dozens of Serbian protesters and two dozen NATO-led Kosovo Force peacekeepers injured, prompting the international call for de-escalation.
"He (Finer) urged the Government of Kosovo to enable newly elected mayors to carry out their duties from alternative locations and to withdraw police forces from municipal buildings. He also welcomed Prime Minister Kurti's willingness to work towards conditions for new elections," the White House said.
Finer also called on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to withdraw his troops from the shared border with Kosovo and lower the military readiness level.
The European Union on Saturday also rebuked the Kosovo and Serbian governments, as well as the protesters.
"The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the violent acts against citizens, KFOR troops, law enforcement, and media in the north of Kosovo," the European Council said in a statement that took a stronger tone than Finer. "The violence could have been avoided and must be avoided in the future."
Brussels urged both Kosovo and Serbia "to immediately and unconditionally take measures to de-escalate, stop using divisive rhetoric and refrain from any further uncoordinated actions. Calm needs to be restored urgently. The European Union is ready to implement resolute measures. Failure to de-escalate the tensions will lead to negative consequences."