BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Kosovo on Sunday to ease tensions with Serbia, two days after violent clashes between Kosovo police and protesters opposed to Albanian mayors taking office in ethnic Serb regions.
Stoltenberg, the Norwegian secretary-general of the transatlantic military alliance, said he had spoken to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about Kosovo.
He said that Pristina and Belgrade should engage in dialogue led by the European Union.
“Pristina must de-escalate and not take destabilizing unilateral steps,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
Serbs, who make up the majority of the population in Kosovo’s northern region, do not accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still see Belgrade as their capital more than two decades after the war ended in 1999.
Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90% of the population in Kosovo as a whole.
Serbs refused to participate in local elections in April, and Albanian candidates won the four municipalities by 3.5%.
The local Serbs, supported by Belgrade, said that they would not accept the mayors and that they did not represent them.
On Friday, three out of four mayors were escorted to their offices by police. The demonstrators threw stones at the authorities, who responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the angry crowds.
The situation remained tense on Sunday as heavily armed policemen in armored vehicles still guarded the mayors’ offices.
(Cover) By Sabine Siebold, Writing by Fu Yun Che; Editing by Sharon Singleton
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