Serbian Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović says he will not stop visiting Serbs in the province regardless of yesterday’s incident near Štrpce.
Bogdanović intended to welcome in the Orthodox (Julian calendar) New Year on Mt. Brezovica with the local Serbs “and learn about the problems they face, and how to reconcile different opinions present in that community”, when Kosovo police, KPS, members interrupted his visit.
“As far as my future visits to Kosovo and Metohija are concerned, there’s no doubt there, no one can stop me,” the minister said, and reminded that he was born in Kosovo and Metohija, where he now lives with his family.
As for the KPS road block, Bogdanović said it was a “product of intention, rather than misunderstanding”, and that the goal of it was to “provoke incidents with Serbs in Štrpce”.
“It almost came to that, but I appealed on the people to be calm and accepted the decision to leave the municipality of Štrpce and the territory of Kosovo and Metohija,” said the minister.
Announcing “continued pragmatic and constructive Serb government policy toward Kosovo”, Bogdanović said he will “continue to appeal for reconciliation between Serbs and [ethnic] Albanians“.
“Albanians know I never used hate speech but always urged peace and tolerance”, he said, but added that he can “never accept that Kosovo should be an independent state”.
After the incident near the southern Serb enclave on Wednesday, Bogdanović left the province via the Merdare administrative line checkpoint, to then return to his home in Leposavić, northern Kosovo.
Speaking after the incident, Bogdanović noted that he “did not even travel in an official vehicle, but used a private car with Kosovo license plates, and carried personal documents issued by UNMIK that are valid in Kosovo”.
The minister said that he did not ask for permission to visit Štrpce, but that he notified the EU mission in the province, EULEX, about the time and place of his trip.
Bogdanović announced that he would “contact only this mission the next time as well”, and concluded that the government in Priština will realize that they had made a mistake, “since they can only create extremists this way”.
On Wednesday, the EU special representative’s office in Priština said that Bogdanović had broken procedures for his visit and that he was turned away for this reason, while in Belgrade Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković summoned western ambassadors stationed here to lodge his protest.