Kosovo police fire tear gas at protesters, detain Serbian official

A protest against the commemoration of Milan Nedic's death in February 2018

A protest against the commemoration of Milan Nedic's death in February 2018

The head of the Serbian Government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija, who spoke publicly for the first time after his arrested in Kosovo on Monday for allegedly entering the territory illegally, said he was proud of the Serb people, who "defended themselves using Gandhi's methods". On the same day, he was arrested in Kosovska Mitrovica while participating in a round-table discussion on the future of Kosovo and Metohija.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, speaking after an urgent session of the country's top security body in Belgrade, denounced Kosovo as a "terrorist" and "bandit" state supported by Western powers, and accused Kosovo's officials of "a brutal provocation".

Senior Serb official Marko Djuric was detained after he illegally entered Kosovo.

Kosovo's foreign minister has hailed police for "acting in line with our country's laws" after detaining and then expelling a Serb official banned from visiting a divided northern town.

The roundtable was part of a dialogue towards normalisation Serbia is conducting with Kosovo, its former province that went to war against repressive Serbian rule in the late 1990s, to help fulfil conditions for European Union membership.

Last week, Mogherini invited Vucic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, to a meeting in Brussels to discuss "the preparations of a comprehensive agreement on normalization of relations" and progress in the implementation of past agreements.

Kosovo won independence after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bombed Serbian security forces to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians from the region in a counter-insurgency campaign.

The meeting of the council that comprises top state and security officials was earlier planned for Tuesday morning.

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During the arrest, the "police" of the separatist Kosovo clashed with the participants of the discussion.

Djuric, whose hands were bandaged, appeared at the news conference with Kosovo Serb officials after talks with Vucic.

Kosovo police said that the increased forces in the north are only "implementing the government's decision and have no other goals". But two of them arrived in the Serb-part of the divided town of Mitrovica later Monday.

"Just as we did not give up today, despite all the threats, bans, cordons, and controls, just as they did not manage to stop us, as we did not give up, we will not give up our fight for a search for a solution that does not destroy or humiliate Serbs and Serbia", Selakovic said.

State TV reported that Marko Djuric, the Serb negotiator, was arrested which triggered protests and the firing of tear gas and stun grenades.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade does not recognize the split and is seeking to maintain influence in Kosovo's north, where most of the country's Serb minority is located.

Goran Rakic, who heads the Serbian List in Kosovo's parliament, said that Serbs would on their own form an association of Serb-dominated municipalities in Kosovo, which was envisaged in a European Union-mediated deal in 2013 but was never carried out by Kosovo authorities.

Serb officials must seek official clearance from Kosovo's authorities before any visit.

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