Nato has sent 700 more troops to Kosovo to help quell violent protests and has put another battalion on standby in case the riots spread, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.
“We have decided to deploy 700 more troops from the operational reserve force for Western Balkans and to put an additional battalion of reserve forces on high readiness so they can also be deployed if needed. These are prudent steps,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo, after talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
A battalion typically ranges from 300 to around 1,000 troops.
Mr Stoltenberg condemned the violence in Kosovo, saying that “such attacks are unacceptable and must stop”. He warned that Nato troops “will take all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment for all citizens in Kosovo”.
He urged both sides to take steps to de-escalate, refrain from “further irresponsible behaviour” and to return to EU-backed talks on improving relations.
Tensions first increased over the past weekend, after ethnic Albanian officials elected in votes overwhelmingly boycotted by Serbs entered municipal buildings.
When the Serbs tried to block them, Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
In response, Serbia put the country’s military on the highest state of alert and sent more troops to the border with Kosovo. The Serbs protested again on Monday, insisting both ethnic Albanian mayors and Kosovo police must leave northern Kosovo.
The confrontations worsened when Serbs attempted to enter the municipal offices in Zvecan, 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of the capital Pristina.
They clashed first with Kosovo police and then with the international peacekeepers who deployed in Zvecan.
The flare-up has triggered a flurry of international efforts to calm the situation.
Published: by Radio NewsHub