Kosovo delays local election in Serbian majority areas
Kosovo's President Vjosa Osmani announced on Saturday that local elections that were due to be held this month in predominantly Serbian areas would be delayed until April.
The decision was made after Osmani met with Kosovo's political leaders. The polls in the northern municipalities have been postponed to April 23.
"In order to ensure a big participation in these elections, to have observers from local and international partners... my evaluation is that the postponement is necessary," President Osmani told reporters.
The decision comes amid heightened tensions in the region.
Why were the elections due in December?
The elections in Northern Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvecan and Leposavic were necessary after Serbian mayors, judges and hundreds of police officers resigned in protest over the Kosovo government's decision to ban Serbian-issued license plates after an almost two-year-long dispute.
Those occupying local government positions also abandoned their posts.
In November, days after talks deadlocked, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that the license plate row had been resolved, and said chief negotiators of Kosovo and Serbia — under EU facilitation — had agreed on measures to avoid further escalation.
Tenuous security situation
On Saturday, Serbians in Kosovo's north blocked roads following the arrest of a former Serb police officer alleged to have attacked electoral officials and election centers.
Kosovo police said in a statement that people "from certain criminal groups" fired at police units on three occasions and responded by firing back. Those responsible for firing the shots left the location in an unknown direction according to police.
Earlier in the week, an unknown gunman shot and injured a Kosovo law enforcement officer.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday indicated that he would ask NATO's peacekeeping force KFOR to allow the deployment of Serbian military and police in Kosovo.
Vucic told a media briefing in Belgrade that he had"no illusions" that the request would be accepted.
Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti's office has called any move in this direction "an act of aggression" and a sign of "Serbia's tendencies to destabilize the region."
Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have been ongoing for decades, with the former refusing to recognize Kosovo's statehood after it broke away from Serbia in 2008.
kb/fb (Reuters, AP)