Protection sought for Kosovo Serbs
Belgrade - Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic called on international organisations in Kosovo to protect Serbs, following attacks on buses carrying Kosovo Serb children in Pristina, in a statement Friday.
After condemning Thursday's incidents “that do not contribute to the stability of the region,” Nikolic urged the organisations “to carry out their obligations ... to assure the security and protect the rights of all citizens”, not just the ethnic Albanian majority of the region.
On Thursday five buses carrying Serb schoolchildren were pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails, Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR said. Local media reported that some 10 children were hurt by flying glass and two had to be treated in hospital.
The attackers were reported to be Albanian youths who targeted the buses as they returned from a ceremony to mark the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, when Ottoman Empire forces defeated the medieval Serb army, at the Gazimestan site near Kosovo's main city.
Earlier on Thursday Serbs and Kosovo police clashed on the border with Serbia leaving dozens wounded on both sides. The Serbs, who were trying to attend the Kosovo battle commemoration, threw stones at the police after they were expelled from the territory.
Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga condemned the attack on the bus as “an attack on the stability of the country” and called on the authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible.
At the same time she dismissed the border clashes as “an attempt by a group of hooligans to enter Kosovo territory” and “a serious violation of law and order”.
Nikolic put the blame for both incidents squarely on the Pristina authorities..
“Such actions are an open provocation at a moment when we should be calming tensions (in Kosovo) before continuing the dialogue,” he said.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence and continues to consider the territory its southern province.
Out of a population of about two million, there are some 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.
Belgrade and Pristina have been meeting in EU-brokered talks since March 2011 to try to resolve some of the issues that stem from Serbia's non-recognition of independence.
The talks were put on the backburner following elections in Serbia but are due to resume when a new government is formed in Belgrade. - Sapa-AFP