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Sep 28, 2021
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“Pristina grossly violated obligations”: the Deputy Foreign Minister of Serbia – on the crisis on the border with the self-proclaimed Kosovo

Pristina is to blame for the current crisis on the border between Central Serbia and self-proclaimed Kosovo, which is trying to intimidate and expel the Serbian population from its territory. This was stated in an interview with RT by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Serbia, Nemanja Starovic. According to him, the Kosovo authorities have been pursuing such a policy over the past several decades, as a result of which tens of thousands of Serbs were forced to leave the region. At the same time, the EU and NATO turn a blind eye to such actions of Pristina. In an interview with RT, the deputy minister also stressed that Belgrade is not interested in escalating the conflict and advocates a peaceful dialogue, however, the experience of the past years makes it ready for any development of the situation.

– What is the cause of the current crisis around Kosovo? Why, despite the many previous provocations of Pristina, it was the ban of Serbian license plates that became the turning point and caused such a development of events?

– The ban on passage with Serbian registration numbers, which was unilaterally announced by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina in spite of all previously concluded agreements and agreements, caused both a political and a humanitarian crisis – as well as a security crisis. About 9.5 thousand vehicles with Serbian numbers were practically captured in the north of Kosovo and Metohija, including ambulances and trucks with medicines and essential goods. Therefore, the protest of the Serbs living in the north of Kosovo and Metohija and the state bodies of the Republic of Serbia becomes completely clear, because we cannot remain silent in response to such a threat to our citizens and compatriots.

  • Serbian Deputy Foreign Minister Nemanja Starovic
  • © Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia

Let me remind you that Serbia did nothing to provoke such anti-civilization actions by the Pristina authorities, we are talking about a unilateral step, the sole purpose of which is to intimidate the Serbian population and expel Serbs from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. This is confirmed by the fact that the Pristina authorities, in order to carry out these unilateral measures, sent about 350 special forces armed with machine guns and rifles to the north of Kosovo. With this step, Pristina grossly violated the obligations according to which it can send special forces to the north of Kosovo and Metohija only with the consent of the heads of four municipalities with a predominantly Serbian population, which, of course, was not respected.

– The Albanian side claims that the agreement on freedom of movement, prisoner between Belgrade and Pristina in 2011, meant the introduction in the province of exclusively “Kosovo” numbers, and the Kosovar authorities have now only moved on to implement what they had agreed on earlier. How true is this?

– The agreements of 2011 and 2016 determined the period during which the Pristina authorities had to continue issuing politically neutral numbers of the KS series, adopted during the UN administration. The period of 5 + 5 years after the conclusion of the agreements really expired, however, the 2016 agreement did not imply automatic unilateral steps, but obliged both parties upon the expiration of the agreements to resume negotiations and settle this issue. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

Pristina many times ignored the insistent requests of the official Belgrade that the issue of license plates and freedom of movement in a broad sense should be considered within the framework of the dialogue in Brussels. But even in such an abstract issue concerning the politically neutral numbers of the KS series, Pristina cannot find in any agreement grounds for its unilateral decision prohibiting passage with Serbian license plates, with which one can freely travel to Paris or Moscow, but not to Pristina.

– What is the reason for this behavior of Pristina? What role does the sense of impunity and patronage from the West play in this, which can be illustrated by the recent statement of “President” Vjosa Osmani: “If Serbia crosses the border with Kosovo, it will deal with US and NATO troops”? What internal political and geopolitical factors determine such a stubborn and uncompromising approach of the Albanian side?

– The leaders of the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, unfortunately, believe that they are allowed to do everything, that the support from their Western sponsors is unlimited. In addition, recent experience shows that they are often rewarded for their destructive and aggressive moves. An example of this is the pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija in March 2004, when another 50 thousand Serbs were expelled from the region, and about 150 Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed or demolished.

  • Serbian military and armored personnel carrier “Lazar” in the area of ​​the border of Serbia and self-proclaimed Kosovo
  • © Sergey Belous

As a result of this insane act, the Albanians of Kosovo and Metohija were rewarded by the fact that the western part of the international community abandoned the policy of “standards over status” and opened the way for them to unilaterally proclaim independence, explaining that this would alleviate the frustration of the Albanian majority, and then an independent Kosovo will become a multi-ethnic paradise.

The often-used metaphor that portrays Kosovo as the child of its parents is, in fact, accurate. But I must say that this child is a terribly spoiled teenager of 13 years old, who in his arrogance provokes more and more problems, relying in everything on the support of his older brothers. I think this comparison with an aggressive teenager best characterizes Pristina’s infantile and extremely destructive behavior. As soon as the Pristina authorities face any, even the slightest, pressure regarding the fulfillment of at least some of the obligations that they signed with their signature, they resort to a strategy of unilateral provocations, counting on the protection of Western sponsors from Serbia, despite the fact that Belgrade is doing nothing for escalation of the conflict.

– Why did the West react to the redeployment of the Serbian army units near the administrative borders with Kosovo and Metohija, but before this week ignored the aggressive behavior of Pristina, which sent its special forces to the north of the region? How would you comment on Josep Borrell’s call for “both sides” to withdraw their forces from the north of Kosovo? How to take a transfer armed forces in the Rash region and how would you explain this “message”?

– Unfortunately, this is not the first case of the use of double standards by representatives of Western countries. We are already accustomed to the fact that every time after an escalation by the Albanians of Kosovo and Metohija, responsibility is assigned to “both sides”, despite the fact that in reality in these processes there is no responsibility of the official Belgrade or the Serbs from Kosmet.

The peaceful protests of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are a logical and reasonable reaction to the unilateral measures of Pristina, which burden the lives of their families, not to mention the humanitarian aspect of this problem. The lack of an adequate response to the fact that the Pristina authorities sent Albanian special forces, armed to the teeth, to the peaceful unarmed protests of the Serbs is a shame for those who kept silent, because silence is a sign of consent.

The movement of the armed forces on its territory is the sovereign right of any independent state, and no one in the world can challenge this right of the Republic of Serbia.

In addition, our armed forces did not cross the administrative lines a meter and did not enter the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, according to which the KFOR forces are the only legal armed forces on the territory of our southern province.

  • Serbian combat vehicle “Milos” near the border of Serbia and self-proclaimed Kosovo
  • © Sergey Belous

The deployment of units of the Serbian army in relative proximity to the administrative lines does not violate any of the agreements or international obligations of our country and does not pose a threat to anyone. The only “message” is a deterrent and a warning factor, which is one of the ways to preserve peace.

Just like when a 100% tax on goods from central Serbia was unilaterally introduced at the end of 2018, which led to the cessation of trade across the administrative border and which was in effect for almost two years, the EU did nothing to force Pristina to cancel these measures. contradicting not only basic European values, but also the agreements of the Central European Free Trade Association and the Stabilization and Association Agreement that Pristina concluded with the EU.

– What is the real background of the current crisis and what intra-Kosovo and geopolitical factors determine its development? What are the possible scenarios for the development of events? How will Belgrade respond if Pristina introduces “Kosovo security forces” to the north of the province, and NATO will wash its hands, as it did in 2004?

– The Serbian people are haunted by a very bitter and tragic experience of the immediate past, when in 1995 thousands of our compatriots were expelled from Croatia during the criminal operations “Lightning” and “Tempest”. Not to mention the events of 1999 and 2004, when 250 thousand Serbs and representatives of other national minorities were expelled from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, of which less than 2% returned to their homes, which is the lowest rate in the world for returning to their territories after the wars and conflicts.

  • Situation on the border of Serbia and self-proclaimed Kosovo
  • © Sergey Belous

Taking this into account, we cannot and will not allow a repetition of something like this today, in the third decade of the 21st century. In accordance with UNSCR 1244, NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping force was mandated to ensure the safety of all citizens in Kosovo and Metohija, and we expect them to protect our compatriots from Albanian extremists. However, experience teaches us that we must be prepared for any scenario, including those that we least desire.

Peace and stability are the most important priorities for our country, and today we have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of rapid socio-economic development. And we will always strive to avoid any escalation that poses a security threat at virtually any cost. However, Serbia will not abandon its duty, which is the main function of any state, to protect the lives of its citizens, unless effectively done by those in whose competence it is.

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