In a closed-door meeting held last week in New York City against the backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly, high-ranking officials from the Biden administration engaged in crucial diplomatic discussions with leaders from the Western Balkans.

The undisclosed meeting that took place on Wednesday evening in New York City marked a pivotal moment in Western Balkan diplomacy. A senior diplomatic source, who insisted on anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussions, told The Pavlovic Today that prime ministers from the Western Balkan nations addressed pressing concerns with the US officials regarding the destabilizing actions of Prime Minister Albin Kurti in northern Kosovo. They proposed a solution.

According to our well-placed diplomatic source, the appeal for intervention was voiced fervently by “at least two” prime ministers from Western Balkan nations, other than Serbia, who urgently beseeched the United States for an end to Prime Minister Kurti’s “destabilizing activities” within Kosovo. The proposed remedy advanced during the informal meeting involved entrusting NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) with complete authority over northern Kosovo, effectively supplanting the current role held by the Kosovo Police Force.

The prime ministers of the Western Balkans voiced deep apprehension over the situation in northern Kosovo created by unilateral actions by PM Albin Kurti, emphasizing the potential ramifications that could spill over into the broader region. They argued that the ongoing instability in this part of Kosovo poses a significant threat to regional peace and security.

The best case against the Western Balkans falling down in the view of the Western Balkans leaders is to grant NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) full control over northern Kosovo and by doing so stop PM Kurti from destabilizing the region. 

​​The rationale behind this proposal revolves around fostering trust within the local Serb population. They perceive KFOR and EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) as impartial actors capable of maintaining peace. NATO already has personnel on the ground; the mission is already established and would ensure neutrality.

The Western Balkans leaders believe that KFOR taking full control of the north would help return Kosovo’s issues to diplomatic channels and resume dialogue essential for resolving the ongoing tensions in the region.

During the meeting in Brussels on September 25, the proposal was likely planned to be on the table among the United States, the EU, Germany, and France.

But what would Western Balkan politics be without a cliffhanger?

Was this eruption of violence a mere coincidence in light of the impending proposal to replace the Kosovo Police with KFOR?

On the brink of a critical diplomatic discussion scheduled for Monday, September 25th, involving the proposal for KFOR to assume complete control in northern Kosovo, a troubling incident unfolded a mere 24 hours prior in Banjska, northern Kosovo, resulting in the deaths of one Kosovo policeman and, so far, four Serbs. This unsettling turn of events raises a pressing question: was this eruption of violence a mere coincidence in light of the impending proposal to replace the Kosovo Police with KFOR?

Had the events of Sunday morning not transpired, it is highly likely that the discussion that was slated for Monday would have revolved around the option of KFOR assuming full control — a topic of paramount importance for the European Union, the United States, Germany, and France.

“Intense and very substantial consultations with Chief diplomatic advisers Bonne, Plötner, Talo and DAS Escobar. We discussed the next steps in the implementation of the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation and the situation in the north of Kosovo. Grateful for the full support,” EU’s Miroslav Lajcak stated on platform X on Monday.

Sources within the diplomatic sphere, speaking exclusively to The Pavlovic Today, shed light on Prime Minister Kurti’s motivations to send Kosovo Police force to Banjska, asserting that his objective is to shift blame onto the Serbian side and gain legitimacy for the continued presence of the Kosovo Police in northern Kosovo.

This move, a diplomatic source explained, is in direct contradiction to Article 9 of the 2013 Brussels Agreement, which stipulates that the composition of the Kosovo Police in the north should mirror the ethnic composition of the population in the four municipalities, specifically the Serb community in the northern Kosovo.

“There shall be a Police Regional Commander for the four northern Serb majority municipalities (Northern Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic). The Commander of this region shall be a Kosovo Serb nominated by the Ministry of Interior from a list provided by the four mayors on behalf of the Community/Association. The composition of the Kosovo Police in the north will reflect the ethnic composition of the population of the four municipalities. (There will be another Regional Commander for the municipalities of Mitrovica South, Skenderaj and Vushtrri). The regional commander of the four northern municipalities will cooperate with other regional commanders,” states the Article 9.

2013 Brussels Agreement

At the press conference on September 7, 2023,  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “In line with Pristina’s commitment from 2013, any deployment of the Kosovo Security Force to the North of Kosovo requires the concurrence of KFOR. And we expect timely and meaningful consultation on any action of the Kosovo Security Force or Kosovo Police that could impact the security environment.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with Ms. Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu from Kosovo at NATO Headquarters [Photo: NATO]

Over the past six months, Prime Minister Albin Kurti has taken unilateral actions that have raised concerns regarding the treatment of the Serb population in Kosovo. These actions have included extrajudicial arrests of Kosovo Serbs and the use of force to occupy municipal buildings in northern Kosovo. The Kosovo Police Force has been implicated in seven shootings targeting Serbs, including adults and two children, in addition to forcefully assuming control of Serb municipalities.

Brothers Stefan (11) and Miloš (21) Stojanović from Gotovuša. Shot on January 6th by members of the Kosovo Border Police led by Azem Kurtaj, who was placed under house arrest.

Miljan Delević was shot on the Bistrica Bridge on January 23, 2023. The bullet also grazed Dušan S.

The Kosovo police shot Milan Jovanović (39) from Zvečan on the Bistrica Bridge while he was carrying supplies. Although the police initially denied the incident, they later opened an investigation, and the Kosovo Police officer has not yet been held accountable.

Kosovo police shot Dragiša Galjka in the back with two bullets on May 29th, and he is still recovering with lasting consequences.

In a troubling escalation of hostilities, on September 14, 2023 PM Albin Kurti openly stated outside the EEAS building that the Serbs will “suffer and pay”. During the night of September 22, 2023, in the municipality of Ranilug, situated to the south of the Ibar River, at approximately 2:30 a.m., a series of three separate armed attacks transpired, casting a shadow of fear and uncertainty over the local Serbian community.

  1. Vladica Aritonović – the device exploded
  2. Srdjan Ristić, director of the local kindergarten – the device exploded
  3. Zoran Ristić, director of the Social Welfare Center – whose fortune spared him when the device failed to detonate as it was discovered at the entrance gate within his front yard.

The Serbian population residing in Kosovo perceives an alarming and deeply troubling pattern of systematic and widespread violence orchestrated by Albin Kurti. The atmosphere that has been created has instilled a pervasive sense of fear and insecurity among the Serb community in the region. The belief in an ongoing campaign of violence, orchestrated by Kurti and targeting Serbs, underscores the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address these concerns and safeguard the well-being of all residents in Kosovo.

The argument for KFOR to take over and restore peace and stability in the region resonates from the perspective of impartiality and the pressing need for a return to a EU-led dialogue.

The Pavlovic Today understands that diplomatic discussions regarding KFOR assuming full control in northern Kosovo will persist in the coming days. Finding a sustainable solution against further escalation remains of the utmost importance for the stability of the Western Balkans.

“A total failure of the EU dialog. NATO has had to take control,” a former White House official shared his thinking with The Pavlovic Today.

Amidst the global spotlight fixed on events in Ukraine, it is important to recognize that behind closed doors, diplomatic maneuvering may hold the key to stabilizing a region grappling with ongoing tensions in Kosovo. 


Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at...

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