BELGRADE – Serbia and Kosovo were brought to “the brink of war,” according to the Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, after a Kosovo-bound train bearing the popular catchphrase ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ was prevented from crossing the administrative border by Albanians, who deemed it an affront.
The government in Kosovo said it saw the inscription on the train as a provocative act and a message of occupation, while the Serbian side insisted that it merely denotes a celebration of Serbia’s cultural heritage, which stretches back hundreds of years.
However, tensions rose during the incident, prompting Nikolic to put things bluntly – that the two had briefly been on the precipice of war, and that the Serbian move to call back its train was quite measured, but will not be next time if Albanians threaten Serbian lives.
Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said earlier that he had contacted the US and EU to voice his concerns. Meanwhile, Edita Tahiri, the Kosovo government minister responsible for dialogue with Serbia, complained to Kosovo’s Western partners of the “illegal Serbian train,” alleging, according to local media, that “Serbia has a dangerous plan that should concern us all.”
Nikolic and senior Serbian officials condemned these moves. The Serbian president said he will be expecting a clear response from Brussels on whether it is true Mustafa had consulted the EU and had US support before illegally stopping the train.
“We do not care for war, but will not hesitate to send in the armed forces if need be, to protect Serbs from potential slaughter… We do not want a conflict, but there are situations when one can’t cave in… We shall henceforth behave in accordance with Serbian Law, which is clear. We have a duty to defend every inch of the territory and every citizen. We all agree on this, and no one should test us,” the Serbian leader said.
“We acted well yesterday, and there is no cause for Albanian jubilation here. Each new attempt will end badly – let them think about that… them and their sponsors,” Nikolic added, apparently referring to the US and the EU.
The near-volatile situation with the train comes on the heels of another incident, in which French Police seized former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on an old Serbian international warrant. He was later released, thanks to a French court, despite Serbian allegations of Haradinaj’s war crimes during his KLA years.