A new train route connecting Serbia with Kosovo has flared up tensions between the Serbs and Kosovo-Albanians. The promotional ride was organized on Saturday in a new Russian-manufactured train. The train’s interior was decorated with the imagery of the Serb cultural and spiritual heritage located in Kosovo and Metohija, while a sign on the train’s exterior read “Kosovo will always be Serbia”. The line started in Belgrade, and went to Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo via Mladenovac, Lapovo, Kraljevo, and Raska and it would be the first train connection after the 1999 NATO bombings in Kosovo against Serbia.
Marko Djuric said on Friday he “doesn’t expect Kosovo’s authorities to prevent the train on the Belgrade-Kosovska Mitrovica line from entering the southern (Serbian) province”.
The director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija remarked on Friday that treating the train in that way “would have to do with nationalism, chauvinism, and limiting the basic human rights”.
However, things didn’t work out that well. The Kosovo authorities deployed Special Forces to stop the train and tension followed.
The Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic warned on Sunday that “any new attempt by Pristina to cause a conflict” would “end badly”.
The president made this statement after a meeting of the Council for National Security, held in Belgrade.
“Let Albanians and their sponsors think about that. We will act in line with the Constitution of Serbia. Kosovo and Metohija is, under international law, a part of Serbia … Saturday was a day at the brink of conflict, although Belgrade made an effort not to show it”, the president said.
“The appearance of (Pristina’s) ROSU units (in northern Kosovo) was a sign that (Kosovo) Albanians want war”, Nikolic added.
But his statement after his meeting of the Council held at the Serbian Army General Staff’s headquarters was even more clear:
“I am warning (Pristina) not to speak about conquering of territories, about their police being in a territory where they could not be, under any of the agreements. We do not want conflict, but there are situations and circumstances where one can no longer act according to one’s wishes. We will act according to the Constitution of Serbia, which is clear. We are under obligation to secure every inch of the territory and each citizen. We have agreed on this, and we stand united, and let us not be provoked”.
On the Kosovo side the Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said the move had been an act of protecting Kosovo’s sovereignty, adding that “the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo will always undertake such actions to protect the country’s sovereignty and not allow machines that will provoke with a message of occupation”.
Kosovo Albanians make up more than 90 percent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population. Northern Kosovo, where Mitrovica is situated, is home to a Serb minority of around 40,000 to 50,000 people who do not see Pristina as their capital.