Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo soared after the Kosovo government last month introduced a 100-percent tax on Serb imports — an apparent retaliation for a failed Kosovo bid for membership in the international police organization, Interpol, after intense Serbian lobbying.
Since then Serbia has sought to get support from its allies – Russia and China on Tuesday to oppose the formation of a Kosovo army and warned that a military in its former province can lead to renewed clashes in the Balkans.
Serbian officials claim that the army would be used against the Serb minority in Kosovo. Though Kosovo is not recognised as a country by Russia or China, Kosovo had claimed independence in 2008 and their parliament set to vote Dec. 14 on transforming the country’s security forces into a regular army Serbia has threatened unspecified retaliatory measures if the army is created.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met separately with the Russian, Chinese and U.S. ambassadors in Belgrade on Tuesday, saying that “continuous provocations” from Kosovo could leave Serbia with no choice but to “protect” the Serb minority. Vucic also said that the formation of an army can jeopardize peace and stability in the region.
“The irresponsible behaviour of Pristina could lead to a catastrophe because Serbia cannot peacefully watch the destruction of the Serbian people,” Vucic said in a statement.
Vucic said it’s “completely clear” that both the formation of the army and the tariffs are intended to “force Serbs out” of Kosovo.
Kosovo split from Serbia after a 1998-99 war for independence that left more than 10,000 dead. Serbia’s brutal crackdown in the province prompted NATO to launch airstrikes to stop the conflict.
An armed intervention by Serbia in Kosovo would trigger a direct clash with NATO-led peacekeepers stationed there. Serbia recently increased its sabre-rattling, including raising the combat readiness of its troops over a series of small incidents.