The Biden administration sounded the alarm on Serbia’s troop buildup near the border with Kosovo, urging the government to pull back its forces and hold accountable those responsible for a shootout that killed a Kosovar police officer and three other people.
(Bloomberg) — The Biden administration sounded the alarm on Serbia’s troop buildup near the border with Kosovo, urging the government to pull back its forces and hold accountable those responsible for a shootout that killed a Kosovar police officer and three other people.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in a phone call to ease tensions, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. He said Blinken supported NATO’s decision to authorize additional forces in Kosovo.
Serbia’s “unprecedented staging” of artillery and personnel has been “a very destabilizing development,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Read more: Kosovo Identifies Serb Official After Shootout as Tensions Flare
A “troubling cycle of sporadic violence has gotten worse,” Kirby told reporters Friday. He described the Sept. 24 attack as well-coordinated and unlikely to have been carried out by a small or ad-hoc group.
“Everyone who was involved in carrying out this attack need to be brought to justice,” Kirby said.
NATO on Thursday authorized additional forces from the UK if needed to address the current situation, said an alliance official speaking under condition of anonymity to discuss details that aren’t public. KFOR is increasing its presence and activity in northern Kosovo and the areas around the administrative boundary line, the person said.
In Belgrade, Vucic confirmed that he spoke with Blinken and welcomed the planned enlargement of the NATO peacekeeping force known as KFOR, while rebutting claims of a Serbian buildup of forces near the border.
“Things that we agreed on is the need for de-escalation,” Vucic said about the call in comments published on his website. “We also agreed that a greater role of KFOR is needed. The Serbian president has already asked the NATO mission to assume control of the area from the Kosovo police.
“I denied the untruth about high combat readiness of our forces because I simply didn’t sign off on that, it’s not true,” Vucic said. “We don’t have half of the forces compared what we had two or three months ago.”
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also discussed the border situation with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
–With assistance from Misha Savic, Natalia Drozdiak and Patrick Donahue.
(Updates with NATO ready to add forces if needed in sixth paragraph.)
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