The State Department has expressed an unmistakable sentiment of “deep concern” over the situation in northern Kosovo, stating their belief that the crisis initiated by Kosovo PM Albin Kurti last Friday was “unnecessary.”

US Ambassador  Jeffrey Hovenier confirmed that the brazen operation carried out on Friday, May 26, to forcibly obtain access to municipal buildings in the northern Kosovo was not coordinated with the United States in the slightest.

“When we became aware of it, we advised strongly against it because we anticipated consequences that we are now seeing,” said Ambassador Hovenier.

The Biden administration unequivocally asserts that the actions of Albin Kurti have inflicted significant damage upon the reputation of Kosovo. Ambassador Hovenier concurred, highlighting that the events of Friday have regrettably impeded the diligent efforts of the United States to foster the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

Secretary Blinken issued a robust condemnation on Friday, cautioning that any refusal to de-escalate the situation would impact the bilateral relationship between the US and Kosovo.

“You saw Secretary Blinken’s tweet? That is rare to have that level of language,” said Hovenier.

Last night, General Cavoli, the Commander of the US European Command, on behalf of the United States, exercised his authority to withdraw Kosovo’s participation from the Defender Europe 23. This resounding action carries a weighty resonance, resolutely reflecting the level of concern and seriousness with which Secretary Blinken and the Biden administration regard the prevailing circumstances. The administration hopes that the government of Kosovo will also recognize the gravity of the situation and respond accordingly.

There were no activities related to Defender Europe 23 today, and there won’t be any more for Kosovo. That exercise is over.

US Ambassador Hovenier

“There were no activities related to Defender Europe 23 today, and there won’t be any more for Kosovo,” declared Ambassador Hovenier. “That exercise is over,” he stated.

The Pavlovic Today has been able to confirm from other sources within the Biden administration, that the US is contemplating additional measures that could be imposed on the Kosovo government if PM Albin Kurti fails to heed US advice.

US Ambassador Hovenier: Kurti has not been responsive to requests to de-escalate

US Ambassador Hovenier has disclosed that the US government has directly urged Prime Minister Kurti to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation in the North.

“We have asked Prime Minister Kurti very directly to take immediate steps to achieve a de-escalation in the North. He has not been responsive to those requests. So we are considering what our other actions will be,” the Ambassador revealed, further stating that the US is now contemplating its next course of action.

We have asked Prime Minister Kurti very directly to take immediate steps to achieve a de-escalation in the North. He has not been responsive to those requests. So we are considering what our other actions will be.

US Ambassador Hovenier

The Ambassador, speaking with unreserved candor, openly acknowledged that the United States, at present, harbors a noticeably diminished enthusiasm to address several of Kosovo’s pressing interests.

This sobering reality encompasses the realm of high-level visits, casting a shadow of uncertainty over potential exchanges between the United States and Kosovo, while also extending to engagements with countries that have yet to recognize Kosovo or actively support its aspirations for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

“Our hope would be that Prime Minister Kurti will take our advice and immediately take some actions to achieve a de-escalation in the north and let us get on with the priority issue of seeing full implementation of the agreement on a pathway to normalization. Rather than the distraction of an unnecessary conflict in the North,” he said.

The US holds the belief that there is not much time to wait for Prime Minister Kurti to respond to their request. “We think this is a really urgent situation,” Ambassador Hovenier emphatically emphasized the gravity of the situation in Kosovo, drawing a vivid comparison to a house engulfed in flames.

“You need to put out the fire. So I don’t think you’re going to see an awful lot of patience on the part of the United States with regard to our expectations that the government take action now to de-escalate the situation in the north,” he said.

The US has two requests for Albin Kurti

The US is urging the Kosovo government to take two specific actions in order to de-escalate the situation. Firstly, they are requesting the withdrawal of the Kosovo Police from the three municipal buildings. Secondly, they are advising the mayors to operate from alternative locations. These measures are seen as crucial steps towards defusing tensions.

“We believe the Government should not insist that the mayors work from the municipal buildings. The Government was able to identify alternative locations for them to take their oaths,” Ambassador Hovenier shared.

“We cannot understand why it cannot use those same alternative locations or other public buildings for them to carry out their functions, which are administrative functions,” he added.

“We are on the record that these mayors have an important role to play with regard to administration. But this is not a normal arrangement and they do not have a strong mandate from their electorate to do a large initiative,” Hovenier acknowledged.

“We believe that the presence of the Kosovo police, which was obtained through force, is incredibly challenging. And so we have asked the Government to withdraw the Kosovo Police from the three municipal buildings. We think that would de-escalate.”

Given the current circumstances in Kosovo, where elected mayors in northern Kosovo have been elected through means mandated by Kosovo’s law, but with a significantly low voter turnout of less than 4%, the US believes it is crucial for these officials to proceed with caution.

“There’s a need for those elected officials to proceed very carefully, right, to accept that they do not have a large political mandate to affect change and to focus on, as we’ve said publicly a number of times, kind of the technical or administrative work of administering, while we seek to establish conditions for a different political environment, which would result in different political representation.”

We have asked the Government to withdraw the Kosovo Police from the three municipal buildings.

US Ambassador Hovenier

The US government has been engaged in discussions with the Kosovo government regarding various aspects, including the manner in which the elected officials assume their positions. The careful conversation revolved around ensuring that the oath-taking process was reassuring to the communities they serve.

“And that’s part of the reason why our reaction was so strong to what happened on Friday. Because that is certainly not how any of these mayors should begin their mandate, by getting access to municipal office only through the police using forceful means to obtain entry. That is not what we had envisioned or recommended,” said Ambassador Hovenier.

In response to the events on Friday, the Serbian President Vucic has issued an order for the Serbian army to be deployed to the border. While acknowledging that the mobilization of forces by neighboring countries with a tense relationship is “never a good sign,” the Ambassador Hovenier emphasized that the primary concern of the US lies with the actions taken by the government of Kosovo, which have contributed to the current crisis atmosphere in the north.

Why were NATO (KFOR) soldiers present in the first place?

The presence of NATO (KFOR) soldiers at the scene was due to their role in maintaining peace and stability. Ambassador Hovenier  clarified that there were no reported injuries among US soldiers on that day but emphasized that peacekeepers, regardless of their nationality, should be regarded equally.

The actions that took place, resulting in the soldiers being wounded, are a source of deep distress and concern for the US and its Quint colleagues.

The reason the [KFOR] soldiers were there, needing to keep the peace in that scenario, was because of the decision made, taken by Prime Minister Kurti to obtain access to these three municipal buildings through forceful means.

US Ambassador Hovenier

Ambassador Hovenier condemned those actions but highlighted that the presence of soldiers was necessitated by Prime Minister Kurti’s decision to forcefully gain access to the municipal buildings on Friday.

Addressing this aspect is crucial for achieving de-escalation, which is the key objective being urged by the US.

“We are deeply distraught and concerned by the actions that took place that resulted in the wounding, and in some cases, serious wounding of these soldiers. I condemned it yesterday, as did all my Quint colleagues, I believe. But that does not negate the fact that the reason the soldiers were there, needing to keep the peace in that scenario, was because of the decision made, taken by Prime Minister Kurti to obtain access to these three municipal buildings through forceful means. And that’s the thing that needs to be addressed with regard to de-escalation, which is what we are asking to take place.”

The Ambassador provided a roadmap for the normalization of relations once de-escalation has been achieved. The United States believes that the full implementation of the agreement signed in Ohrid is essential.

“The United States government has been, I think, quite explicit in our expectation that both parties implement fully all of the commitments they have made in that agreement. That does resolve the situation in the North as well,” stated the Ambassador Hovenier.

“That’s one of the reasons why as well we look to the government of Kosovo to move urgently forward with the process of negotiating the Association [of Serb-majority municipalities], which would be the means to help address many of the issues that have come up in the north,” he concluded.


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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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