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US monitoring large Serbian military deployment along Kosovo border

THE WHITE HOUSE has said it has detected a large build-up of Serbian forces on the Kosovo border and urged Belgrade to withdraw them to avoid destabilizing the situation after deadly clashes.

The killing of a Kosovo police officer and an ensuing gun battle at a monastery in a village close to the Serbian border on Sunday marked one of the gravest escalations in the former breakaway province in years.

“We are monitoring a large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“That includes an unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, mechanized infantry units. We believe that this is a very destabilizing development.”

Kirby added: “We are calling on Serbia to withdraw those forces from the border.”

The purpose of the Serbian build-up was not yet clear but it was a matter of concern, said Kirby.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to urge “immediate de-escalation and a return to dialogue,” he added.

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to Kosovo’s prime minister.

Nato would be “increasing its presence” of its peacekeeping force known as KFOR, Kirby said without giving details.

Three Serb gunmen were killed in the hours-long firefight with Kosovo police, after they ambushed a patrol near the village of Banjska and later barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery.

A member of a major Kosovo Serb political party has admitted to leading a group of gunmen that clashed with Kosovo police earlier this week, his lawyer said today.

Kirby said the attack had a “very high level of sophistication”, involving a high level of manpower, vehicles, equipment and training.

“It’s worrisome. It doesn’t look like just a bunch of guys who got together to do this,” he said.

© AFP 2023