NATO says reinforcements arriving in Kosovo after clashes last week
PHOTO CAPTION: NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers stand guard behind razor wire fence in the town of Zvecan, Kosovo, June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Miodrag Draskic
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Reinforcements for NATO's peacekeeping force have begun to arrive in Kosovo following last week's unrest in the north of the country, the alliance said on Monday.
Violence flared after Kosovo authorities installed ethnic Albanian mayors in offices in northern municipalities after being elected on a turnout of just 3.5% after Serbs who form a majority in the region boycotted local polls.
The clashes injured 30 members of the NATO peacekeeping force known as KFOR as well as 52 Serb protesters.
"Around 500 service members from Turkey's 65th Mechanized Infantry Brigade will make up the bulk of the reinforcements," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a tweet.
NATO decided to deploy 700 additional peacekeepers to Kosovo, reinforcing the 4,000-strong contingent, in response to the crisis and the alliance's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday it was ready to send more.
"NATO will remain vigilant. We will be there to ensure a safe and secure environment, and also to calm down and reduce tensions," he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Oslo.
KFOR was set up after a 1998-99 uprising by majority ethnic Albanians against repressive Serbian rule. Kosovo won internationally recognised independence in 2008 but Serbia rejected it and Serbs in the country's north seek autonomy for their region under a 2013 deal that has not been implemented.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; editing by Mark Heinrich)