The complicated politics of the Balkans could be slipping back to conflict. Kosovo authorities prevented a Serbian train from entering its borders. The reason was the train had Serbian colors and the words “Kosovo is Serbia” painted on its exterior. As such, Kosovo viewed it as a deliberate provocation.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said Kosovo wants war. For their part, he said his country will defend “every inch” of their territory. Nikolic also said that he is willing to send in his army to defend Serbs in Kosovo, should the need arise. The announcement came just a day after Kosovo prevented the Serbian train from entering.
— Petrit Selimi (@Petrit) January 13, 2017
Historical Violence Between Serbia And Kosovo
Kosovo was a Serbian province that declared its independence in 2008. The West, particularly the US and EU, recognizes its existence as a sovereign state. However, Serbia and Slavic Orthodox ally Russia do not, the New York Times reported.
In fact, Serbia continues to exert its influence in northern Kosovo. It is here, especially in Mitrovica, where most of Kosovo’s Serb minority lives. It is worth noting that NATO troops have controlled Kosovo’s borders since 1999. Then, a three month air war ensued as Serbian forces cracked down on Albanian separatists.
The train in question is a vital connector between Serbia and Kosovo. It is the first direct connection between Serbian capital Belgrade and Mitrovica in Kosovo’s north. President Nikolic contends that Serbs in Kosovo remain vulnerable to Kosovo Albanians.
Russian & Western Influences
Serbia seeks EU membership but has been favoring Russia in recent times. Russia has made no secret of its interest in maintaining influence in the Balkans. As such, Serbia has a complicated and strained relationship with its neighbors, something analysts say is a consequence of Russian influence, the BBC reported.
Kosovo has appealed their case to the US and EU. Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said that the age of conflict should be past already. He also added that provocations such as this “do not contribute to the normalization of the relations between our two countries.”
Serbian President Nikolic, however, is a Russian ally. He said that the US and EU have never been on Serbia’s side. He also supports the cessation of EU membership negotiations.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have soured considerably in the past month. Earlier, under the power of a Serbian arrest warrant, authorities detained former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj in France. Kosovo claimed the warrant is illegitimate and that France should ignore it.
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