Serbian leader lashes out at US over Kosovo army
December 14, 2018
The Latest on Kosovo’s vote to create an army (all times local):
Serbia’s president has denounced the United States for its support of a Kosovo army and praised allies Russia and China for their opposition to the move.
President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the nation in his typical dramatic tone, saying that Kosovo and its “sponsor” the U.S. want to “quash” the Serbs, but that he won’t allow it.
Vucic says Serbia has been “brought to the edge” by Kosovo’s decision Friday to form an army and now has no choice but to “defend” itself.
This was one of the strongest anti-American outbursts by Vucic, a former pro-Russian ultranationalist turned alleged pro-EU reformer.
Russia and China have supported Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. The U.S. and most of the West have recognized Kosovo’s independence.
Kosovo leaders have held an official ceremony for the transformation of their security forces into an army.
Friday’s ceremony was led by the country’s three top officials —President Hashim Thaci wearing a military jacket as the army’s commander, Speaker Kadri Veseli and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
Thaci assured NATO and international partners that the new army will be a “multiethnic force” serving all regardless of religion or ethnicity.
“The army will never turn against any one,” said Haradinaj, adding his wish that one day they will be serving for peace together with Serbia’s army.
Serbia has reacted angrily to the move, calling it a direct threat to peace in the Balkans and threatening to mobilize its own armed forces.
Russia’s foreign ministry has denounced moves to form a Kosovo army and said it must be disbanded.
The ministry says in a statement on Friday the NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo “must take urgent and exhaustive measures to demilitarize and disband any armed Kosovar-Albanian formations.”
Russia, a Serbian ally, has supported Belgrade in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence declared in 2008.
The Russian foreign ministry also denounced some Western officials who say that the new Kosovo army would be no different from the existing Kosovo Security Force.
It says that “in reality, it doubles its numbers and creates reserves and most importantly substitutes the essence of the forces whose role until recently was that of civil defense.”
Serbian state television says President Aleksandar Vucic has visited army troops as tensions soared over the formation of a new Kosovo army.
The report says Vucic had lunch Friday with the troops at an “unknown location.” Defense officials had previously said he would visit Serbian troops near the border with Kosovo.
Photos shown on television show Vucic surrounded by unformed soldiers in snowy weather.
Serbian officials have said the country could authorize the use of the military after Kosovo’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Friday to create the army. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and considers the army a threat to the security of minority Serbs in Kosovo.