MITROVICA, Kosovo – The Latest on the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia (all times local):
NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo say the safety of Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic during a visit to Kosovo isn’t threatened despite roadblocks that prevented his visit to a central Serb-populated village.
KFOR, which is the acronym for the force, said Sunday in a statement that they are working with the Kosovo authorities to remove the blockade around the village of Banje peacefully.
The statement says “nobody is threatening Mr. Vucic and his safety is guaranteed.” It adds that “KFOR is working to do it peacefully, but it is ready to intervene … if required.”
In Belgrade, Serbia Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that ensuring that the visit to Banje took place “was important for the credibility of the international community” in Kosovo.
NATO deployed in Kosovo in 1999.
Serbia’s president has addressed Serbs in a central village in Kosovo over the phone after Kosovo Albanians blocked roads and prevented him from getting there.
Dozens of people in the village of Banje lined up Sunday as Aleksandar Vucic told them that “I am very sorry I couldn’t come because the authorities in Pristina didn’t want me to.” Some women could be seen crying as Vucic spoke.
Vucic later criticized NATO-led peacekeepers for not preventing the blockade. Vucic said that Kosovo Albanian authorities were behind the blockade “so they could show, like little children that it has to be the way officials in Pristina want.”
Vucic had planned to visit Banje as part of a two-day visit to Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Kosovo Albanians have blocked roads and burned tires on a planned route by Serbia’s president who is visiting Serbs in the former Serbian province.
Aleksandar Vucic planned to visit a Serb-populated village in central Kosovo on Sunday, but the roads leading to the region were blocked by wooden logs, trucks and heavy machinery.
Serbian media said gunfire could also be heard, but those reports couldn’t be independently verified. Vucic wasn’t under attack.
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic blamed the blockades on former Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers who fought Serb troops in Kosovo during the 1998-99 war for independence.
The conflict ended with a NATO intervention that forced Serbia to pull out of Kosovo. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 which Serbia doesn’t recognize. AP