NATO has declined Belgrade’s request to deploy 1,000 Serbian security and military personnel to Kosovo amid growing tensions between the two countries, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said.
In an interview with Serbian television on Sunday, Vučić said that in a letter turning down the request, NATO’s mission in Kosovo — KFOR — declared “they believe that there is no need for the return of the Serbian Army to the territory of the Republic of Kosovo.”
In December, Belgrade requested NATO’s authorization to deploy troops in neighboring Kosovo following a string of violent confrontations between Kosovo authorities and Serbs residing in the country’s northern region.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after the 1998-1999 war in which NATO bombed Yugoslavia (which included Serbia and Montenegro) amid ethnic violence against Kosovar Albanians. As of 2014, there were about 10,000 Serbs living in Kosovo, many of them opposed to its independence from Serbia. A June 1999 resolution by the U.N. Security Council allows for Serbian military personnel to be deployed in sensitive areas such as churches and locales with Serb majorities, provided that KFOR approves the deployment.
Vučić’s interview comes hot on the heels of the shooting of two young Serbs, reportedly at the hands of an off-duty Kosovo soldier, in the southern Kosovo town of Shterpce on Friday. The attack was condemned by Kosovo officials; the two victims’ injuries are reportedly not life-threatening.