Kosovo police detain Serbian official in Mitrovica
Kosovo police briefly detained a hardline Serbian government official on Monday (March 26) as he attended a round-table meeting on improving relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
The incident occurred in the town of Mitrovica in a volatile, mainly minority Serb pocket of northern Kosovo still unreconciled to the independence a decade ago of the ethnic Albanian-majority country from Serbia.
The round table was part of a dialogue towards normalisation Serbia is conducting with Kosovo, its former province that went to war against repressive Serbian rule in the late 1990s, to help fulfil conditions for European Union membership.
But shortly after the round table began, Marko Djuric, head of the Serbian government office on Kosovo, was detained by police because he had been banned from entering the country over nationalist remarks Pristina regarded as inflammatory.
Djuric was brought to the Kosovo capital Pristina in a police van and, booed by Kosovo Albanian onlookers, walked in handcuffs into the main police station, a Reuters witness said.
But shortly afterwards Djuric was taken to a border crossing and freed to cross back into Serbia.
Twenty years after the ethnic Albanian uprising that eventually led to Kosovo’s statehood, some 50,000 Serbs have clung to homes in territory that remains politically loyal to Serbia and is largely in the grip of Serb criminal gangs.
Serbia does not recognise the independence of Kosovo but is under pressure to normalise relations before it completes accession talks with the EU. But tensions remain high.