Serb President Forced to Abandon Kosovo Visit Amid Road Blocks by Angry Protesters

Prishtina, Kosovo | Sept 10 (Tirana Echo) – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been forced to abandon a visit in Kosovo after tens of ethnic Albanians blocked all roads leading to the small village of Banje populated by ethnic Serbs.

Vucic, who earlier in the day had been visiting the north of Kosovo to meet with representatives of Serbian minority, was notified his visit had been cut in half after Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj announced on his Facebook account the official permission to visit Banje was annulled.

Hardinaj made the announcement following several road blocks by ethnic Albanians and over 200 war veterans in the Drenica area, who demanded an apology from Vucic over war crimes during the Kosovo war before he could enter the area.

Several had parked cars in the form of barricades and others held up slogans such as “Vucic does not go through“, “Vucic Go Back” “Those who committed genocide against innocent people cannot go through”.

I am very sorry I couldn’t come because the authorities in Prishtina didn’t want me to,” Vucic told residents of the Serb-populated enclave over a telephone conversation.

Reacting to the incident, Kosovo’s President President Hashim Thaci said he understands the reaction of Kosovo’s citizens given that the war’s pain and wounds were still fresh. However, he warned this was not the way to move forward as a country.

We should know to rise beyond ourselves, and leave our wounds and pain to the past, on behalf of peace and reconciliation,” Thaci wrote on Facebook.

Vucic was in Kosovo for a two-day visit amid speculation that the two president are secretly negotiating a deal which would involve an exchange of territories and full normalization of relations which could lead to the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia.

Both the United States and the European Union have hinted they will accept a bilaterally negotiated deal. 

However, Vucic later said on Serbian TV that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 1999 following a NATO led bombing campaign against the Milosevic regime which had forced the majority of ethnic Albanians to flee their homes to neighboring Macedonia and Albania.

Serbian politicians are reluctant to publicly accept the independent Republic of Kosovo, claiming that Kosovo is the cradle of Serbian civilization, although behind the scenes they talk of a ‘fait accompli’.

So far, 117 countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state while Russia strongly objects to a possible UN recognition of the young Balkan state.

Five EU member states are yet to recognize Kosovo while the European Union recently recommended the liberalization of the visa regime for Kosovo’s citizens.

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