The European Union on Friday called on leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to meet in Brussels next week in a bid to ease soaring tensions in the region.
In the latest flare-up, the authorities of Kosovo are demanding the return of three police officers taken into custody by Serbia.
That follows weeks of tension between the two sides, after rioting by ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo saw 30 NATO peacekeepers injured in late May.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday that he was going to call the meeting as the bloc seeks to mediate between the two sides.
“Seeing the situation deteriorating every day we are again in crisis management mode,” Borrell said.
A spokesman for Borrell said on Friday that Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s premier Albin Kurti had been invited and the details of the meeting would be announced “at a later stage.”
The EU has warned for Belgrade and Pristina to calm tensions ratcheted up by disputed elections in ethnic-Serb majority northern Kosovo in April.
Tensions soared between the arch rivals following Pristina’s decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities.
France, Germany and the United States have urged both Pristina and Belgrade to dial down the tensions, while the US openly slammed the Kosovo government’s decision to install the mayors.
Borrell on Wednesday urged Kurti to “adopt more resolute steps to de-escalate the situation,” saying that failure to do so would result in “negative consequences” for Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade and its allies Beijing and Moscow have refused to recognize it, effectively preventing Kosovo from having a seat at the United Nations.
Serbs in Kosovo remain largely loyal to Belgrade, especially in the north, where they make up a majority and reject every move by Pristina to consolidate its control over the region.
Serbia has long seen Kosovo as its spiritual and historical homeland, the scene of pivotal battles over the centuries. It continues to host some of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s most revered monasteries.