Swiss Host Secret Talks Between Serbia And Kosovo

Switzerland has been hosting discreet meetings between officials of Kosovo and Serbia in an effort to defuse tensions in the Balkan region.

A stand-off has developed in northern Kosovo with its Serbian neighbours as an incident over car number plates has escalated.

Members of the local Kosovar police force resigned en masse and truck drivers have blockaded roads in the region that has a majority Serb population.

The NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reports that the Swiss foreign ministry has arranged a number of secret talks between the two countries. The content of these discreet meetings has not been made public.

But Switzerland is employing its traditional good offices role in an effort to find agreement in the dispute.

Since 1999, Switzerland has been involved in NATO’s international peacekeeping mission Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo. There are currently 195 Swiss soldiers in the region.

But the foreign ministry believes diplomacy is the right tool to alleviate the current situation that has seen gunfire exchanged during isolated flashpoints.

Swiss parliamentarian Franz Grüter, who is due to visit the region on a fact-finding mission, told the newspaper that the stand-off resembles that of Russia and Ukraine.

“It cannot be ruled out that the same thing will happen in the Balkans and that Serbia will invade Kosovo with the support of Russia,” he said.

But former Swiss ambassador to Kosovo (2016-2020), Jean-Hubert Lebet, is not so alarmed. “As ambassador, I experienced such Serbian provocations several times,” he said. “It was a bluff every time and I don’t see why it should be any different this time.” 

The risk of a large-scale action would be too great for Serbia, said Lebet. “NATO would strike back immediately and Serbia would lose any prospect of EU integration.”

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