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Article: Kosovo moves to lower tension in Serb majority area with police drawdown

A Kosovo police officer patrols in North Mitrovica

Kosovo moves to lower tension in Serb majority area with police drawdown

PHOTO CAPTION: A Kosovo police officer patrols in North Mitrovica, Kosovo June 16, 2023. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski/File Photo



PRISTINA (Reuters) - The Kosovo government said on Tuesday it will scale down the police presence and take other measures to lower tensions in a northern region where hostilities between Albanians and ethnic Serbs have reached their highest level since the country declared independence in 2008.

Violence in north Kosovo, where 50,000 Serbs live and form a majority, erupted in late May after Albanian mayors took office following an election boycotted by Serbs demanding implementation of a decade-old deal for more autonomy.

NATO said 93 of its peacekeeping soldiers had been injured in clashes with Serb protesters, some of them severely, on May 29. Doctors in the north said 52 Serbs were also injured.

In a statement late on Tuesday the government said "it will not take any action that will escalate the situation in the north ... this includes an immediate 25 percent reduction of police presence in and around municipal buildings."

The police presence is expected to further downscale in coordination with NATO troops and the EU police mission and snap elections will be organised in the four municipalities after "summer season," it says.

The United States and European Union, Kosovo's main allies, have mainly blamed nationalist Prime Minister Albin Kurti for tensions in the north.

The EU has already introduced measures on Pristina including halting visits by Kosovo officials to the EU and a suspension of a large part of EU economic aid to the small Balkan republic, and Brussels has warned of further measures if Kurti does not act to ease the tensions.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Stephen Coates)



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