PRISTINA: Kosovo will hold early elections on October 6, the president’s office said on Monday, after lawmakers dissolved parliament last week following outgoing premier Ramush Haradinaj’s resignation to face a war crimes probe.
Haradinaj, who was a commander of ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998-99 war with Serbia, stepped down in July after he was summoned as a suspect by international prosecutors in The Hague.
A special court there — which operates under Kosovo law but has international judges — is investigating alleged war crimes by Kosovo guerrillas during and after the war with Serbia.
The government collapsed after his departure, and parties have already started negotiations about new alliances as they prepare for the polls, which will be Kosovo’s fourth since its independence.
The new elections will inevitably delay already faltering talks to normalise ties with Serbia.
The neighbours still have a hostile relationship two decades after their war, with Belgrade refusing to recognise the independence that Kosovo, a former province, declared in 2008.
Yet a political shake-up could also add new energy to negotiations that have been frozen for months.
Haradinaj took a hardline stance against Belgrade, bringing their EU-led dialogue to a halt after he imposed a 100 per cent tariff on Serbian goods in November.
He has remained intransigent in the face of heavy international pressure to lift the tariff, which Serbia insists is a prerequisite for returning to the negotiating table.
Earlier this month Western powers urged Serbia and Kosovo to reboot their talks with “urgency”, calling on each side to extend an olive branch.
For Kosovo, that would mean suspending the tariff, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement.
They also called on Serbia to halt its “de-recognition campaign against Kosovo”, referring to Belgrade’s efforts to sway other countries to revoke their recognition of Kosovo’s statehood.
But neither side has shown a willingness to budge.
On Sunday Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, said Togo had become the 15th country to reverse its recognition of Kosovo.
He told local Pink TV channel that the goal is to bring the number of countries that recognise Kosovo down to 97 — less than half of the UN member states.
Kosovo has disputed some of these announcements, and on Monday denounced Serbia’s “unprecedented diplomatic and propaganda campaign… to prevent Kosovo’s integration into the international community.” The foreign ministry accused Russia of aiding Serbia’s efforts, which Kosovo alleges include “bribes, corrupt affairs, arms sales and visa waiver agreements.” While the United States and most of Western Europe recognise Kosovo, Russia and China do not, effectively shutting it out of the United Nations. — AFP