Make Serbs drop warrants, Kosovo tells EU

Make Serbs drop warrants, Kosovo tells EU

US marines escort Serb detainees to the Kosovo-Serbian border before being released in July 1999. Source: Wikimedia

Kosovo has asked the European Union to pressure potential member Serbia to drop international arrest warrants for former Kosovo militants, including one for an ex-prime minister who was detained in France this week.

Wednesday’s arrest of Ramush Haradinaj, who was a commander during the 1998-99 war against Serb rule, prompted the government in Pristina and opposition leaders to threaten to end the EU-mediated normalisation talks between Belgrade and its former, mainly ethnically Albanian province.

The talks were a precondition for both countries to make progress towards membership of the EU.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said it was unacceptable that Haradinaj, who now leads the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, was being held because Serbia issued a warrant for war crimes.

“We members of the Kosovo Liberation Army are proud that we fought against the discriminatory and criminal laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Meanwhile, we were proved right by the free and democratic world when the [Nato] bombing campaign of Serbian targets started [in 1999],” Thaci posted on Facebook.

A security source in Europe’s newest country said around 20 Kosovo citizens were subject to Interpol Red Notice arrest warrants, mainly for being former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army before independence. Kosovo has a population of around 1.8 million.

Edita Tahiri, Kosovo’s minister at the EU-led talks with Serbia, said she had written to the EU asking for it to pressure Serbia into withdrawing the warrants. Haradinaj has been cleared of war crimes charges twice by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

“With these primitive acts, Serbia is not only hurting the spirit of the dialogue to have good neighbourly relations, but is proving that it is a destabilising factor in the whole region, and international partners should be seriously worried,” Tahiri told reporters.

Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic is due to visit a predominantly ethnically Serb town in Kosovo on Friday, the eve of the Orthodox Christmas Day.

Belgrade hopes to complete accession talks with the EU by 2020 while Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, has signed a trade and association deal with Brussels but will not be able to join for many years because of serious problems with corruption and organised crime.

Serbia formally considers Kosovo to be part of its territory.

Around 130,000 people were killed in conflict following the break-up of Yugoslavia.

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