The White House has said there is an “unprecedented” buildup of Serbian troops and armour along the Kosovo border and called on Belgrade to withdraw them immediately.
The Nato peacekeeping force in Kosovo, Kfor, has been reinforced with British troops and the Biden administration said it was consulting with allies to ensure Kfor’s posture “matches the threat”.
“We are monitoring a large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo that includes an unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units,” the spokesperson for the US national security council, John Kirby, said on Friday.
“This is a very destabilising development, which has occurred over the past week, and we are calling on Serbia to withdraw forces from the border and lower tensions.”
The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called the Kosovan prime minister, Albin Kurti, to discuss the escalation and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, spoke to the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, and called for “immediate de-escalation” and a return to his previous agreement to normalise relations with Kosovo.
The US warnings come at the end of a week of high tension, beginning with an ambush by well-armed Serb paramilitaries on a Kosovan police patrol, in which a policeman was killed. Three Serb gunmen were killed in the ensuing battle, near the village of Banjskë.
The armed group was led by Milan Radoičić, the deputy leader of Serb List, a Belgrade-backed party representing the Serb minority in northern Kosovo. Through a lawyer, Radoičić said he was responsible for the shootout with Kosovan police, but did not explain the source of the modern weapons Serb paramilitaries had been carrying.
The Kosovan government produced a document purporting to show that a grenade launcher the group had been carrying had been given to them by the Serbian army, and officials in Pristina expressed concern Sunday’s gunfight was intended to provide a pretext for a Serbian military intervention in northern Kosovo.