Serbia Provoking 'tensions' Over Ex-PM Arrest: Kosovo

Serbia provoking 'tensions' over ex-PM arrest: Kosovo

BELGRADE, Jan 6, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 06th Jan, 2017 ) - Kosovo on Friday accused Serbia of wanting to provoke "tensions and conflicts" in the Balkans, following the arrest in France of its former premier Ramush Haradinaj. Belgrade accuses Haradinaj of war crimes against civilians in the late 1990s, when he led ethnic Albanian insurgents fighting Serbian forces for Kosovo's independence. Twice tried and acquitted, Haradinaj was detained on Wednesday as he arrived at the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport, located near the Swiss and German borders, under an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia's judiciary in 2004.

At a cabinet meeting on Friday, Kosovo's Prime Minister Isa Mustafa expressed "the government's concern over this arrest and the judicial proceedings". Belgrade's motivations are "political and unfriendly", Mustafa said, adding that such arrest warrants were "completely illegal and unjust" with the consequence of "provoking tensions and conflicts, and damaging the European (integration) process in the region". Some 13,000 people were killed in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that is largely ethnic Albanian.

In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence but its sovereignty is not recognised by Belgrade or Moscow. A European-Union brokered agreement was reached in 2013 to "normalise"relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The normalisation process is opposed by Haradinaj but backed by his former companion in arms, President Hashim Thaci. Briefly prime minister in 2004-2005, Haradinaj now leads an opposition political party. On Friday, several hundred war veterans protested against his arrest in front of the French embassy in Pristina, carrying banners reading: "Haradinaj is Kosovo" and "Seek criminals in Serbia".

"We are protesting against France for carrying out Serbian arrest orders. We expect France to release him as soon as possible," said former pro-independence fighter Binak Sylaj, 44. On Twitter, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama described the arrest of Haradinaj as an "absurdity".