Belgrade, 27 June (AKI) – Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic on Wednesday asked NATO to protect minority Serbs in breakaway Kosovo province as tensions grew over the status of the province with majority ethnic Albanians, which has been under United Nations control since 1999. Jeremic was quoted by Serbian media as telling NATO secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Schefer in Brussels that the situation in Kosovo was complex and asked the western military alliance, which has a contingent of 17,000 soldiers (Kfor) stationed in Kosovo, “to do everything to protect peace and security of Serbs in Kosovo”.
“Regardless of political and diplomatic developments, maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo and the region must be absolute priority,” Jeremic said. His warning came as thousands of Serbs were planning to commemorate 617th anniversary of the historic battle of Kosovo in which Serbian army was defeated by Ottoman invaders, opening doors to six centuries of Turkish occupation of the Balkans.
Western powers are pushing for Kosovo independence to sooth majority ethnic Albanians, but Belgrade and Russia oppose the move. Moscow has threatened to use a veto in the UN Security Council and demanded fresh negotiations which might lead to a negotiated settlement.
Ethnic Albanians, who outnumber the remaining Serbs in the province by 17 to one, have grown restless over independence project being stalled in the Security Council and have hinted they might resort to violence.
“Schefer has completely agreed that the situation was complex, but he underlined that Kfor would do everything in its power to completely protect peace and stability in Kosovo,” Jeremic was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, a group of Serbian youths calling themselves “The Guard of emperor Lazar”, who embarked on a two-week march from Belgrade to Kosovo on June 14, reached Kosovo on Tuesday and was ready to take part in the commemoration at Gazimestan, near Kosovo capital of Pristina.
Emperor Lazar led Serbian forces at the historic 1389 battle, and the Guard rallies Serbian youths irritated over prospective loss of Kosovo. On the other hand, veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1998, have threatened to settle accounts “with the Guard of criminals” and warned Kfor not to try to protect them.
“Hands away from Kosovo and the provocations which might lead to new wars in the region,” KLA veterans said in a statement.