Washington, DC [US], October 1 (ANI): The United States has expressed deep concern over Serbia's significant military mobilisation near the Kosovo border, calling it an "unprecedented" development, Al Jazeera reported.
Following deadly clashes at a monastery in northern Kosovo, Serbia deployed advanced tanks and artillery to the region. The violence, which resulted in the death of a Kosovar police officer and three Serb gunmen, marked a severe escalation in tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated, "We are monitoring a large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo, including an unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, mechanized infantry units. We believe that this is a very destabilising development." The US has urged Serbia to withdraw its forces from the border, emphasising the need for immediate de-escalation and a return to dialogue, according to Al Jazeera.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken telephoned Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, urging him to take action to de-escalate the situation. While Vucic did not directly deny the recent military buildup, he rejected claims of heightened combat readiness. "We don't even have half the troops we had two or three months ago," Vucic stated.
On Wednesday, Serbia said that the defence minister and head of the armed forces had gone to visit a"deployment zone" but gave no further details.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also expressed concern to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti regarding the Serbian military mobilisation. The two leaders discussed the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia as the long-term solution for stability in the region.
The recent military buildup followed clashes initiated by heavily armed Serb gunmen who ambushed a patrol near the Serbian border, resulting in the death of a Kosovar police officer. Subsequently, dozens of assailants barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery, leading to an hour-long firefight in which three gunmen were killed, and three were arrested. Kosovo's government accused Belgrade of supporting the armed operation.
Kirby described the attack as highly sophisticated, involving approximately 20 vehicles, military-grade weaponry, equipment, and training, raising concerns about its origins and motivations, as reported by Al Jazeera.
"It's worrisome. It doesn't look like just a bunch of guys who got together to do this," he said.
In response to the situation, the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, known as KFOR, announced plans to increase its presence in the region. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg affirmed the alliance's readiness to bolster the KFOR force to address the escalating tensions.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move that Belgrade and Moscow have not recognised. Tensions have persisted between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, with recent months witnessing a sharp escalation of tensions in northern Kosovo, Al Jazeera reported. (ANI)