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Kosovo's President Accuses Belgrade Of 'Provocation' Over Train


A train bearing the words "Kosovo is Serbia" in 21 languages stopped just short of Serb-dominated northern Kosovo on January 14.

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has accused Belgrade of seeking to provoke a crisis by sending a Serbian train painted with the slogan "Kosovo is Serbia" toward Kosovo, halting it only at the last moment before it entered the country.

Thaci told RFE/RL on January 16 that what he termed the Serbian "provocations" were "part of old scenarios for Kosovo's partition."

"Serbia is ready to sacrifice and victimize Serbian citizens of Kosovo, just so it can achieve its own political and military goals, as it did in Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina," Thaci said.

He spoke two days after the train, which bore the words "Kosovo is Serbia" in 21 languages, stopped just short of Serb-dominated northern Kosovo as Belgrade charged that ethnic Albanians were planning to attack it.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic accused Kosovo on January 14 of seeking to provoke "war" by authorizing its security forces to block the train if it crossed the border.

Nikolic said in a press conference in Raska, where the train stopped, that "[Kosovo's] special units mined the railway and other special units were sent to the border to arrest the train driver and the passengers."

NATO said it was monitoring the situation "closely" while urging both sides to show restraint.

"This is an issue between Belgrade and Pristina. We call for all parties to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue. This is in the interest of regional stability and security," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement to RFE/RL.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999, when NATO air strikes forced Belgrade to withdraw its troops after they had killed 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians.

Around 5,000 NATO troops are stationed in Kosovo to keep the fragile peace.

The train, which Serbia bought from Russia, would have been the first from Belgrade to the town of Mitrovica in Kosovo since the 1998-99 war between Yugoslav forces and ethnic Albanian separatists. Serbia had said the train could turn into a regular service after a trial period from January 20 to February 26.

Serbia and Kosovo, a former province that declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, have been locked in EU-facilitated talks since 2011 to normalize ties.

More than 100 countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence.

With reporting by APand Reuters