Tory MP targeted by Serbia over smuggling claims as tensions with Kosovo rise

Christopher Chope clashes with Kearns in Commons debate

A diplomatic row has arisen in Kosovo with tensions rising between British MP Alicia Kearns and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for both sides to defuse tensions in response.

Ms Kearns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, claimed that emergency vehicles are being used to smuggle weapons from Serbia into Kosovo, which are then stored in Serbian Orthodox Church facilities.

She said: “The Government is aware, and our soldiers who have just returned from serving in KFOR, that there is weaponry that is smuggled from the border from Serbia to Orthodox churches in ambulances.

“When our bodies are aware of this and try to get permission and catch them, the permission is greatly extended.

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“By the time permission is secured – ‘surprisingly’ – an ambulance appeared in the church and took out all the weapons again.”

Ms Kearns has requested an extension of the mandate of KFOR to take a more proactive approach in combating weapons smuggling and militias in northern Kosovo.

In response to the allegations, Vucic referred to Ms Kearns as a lobbyist. He also mentioned his intention to sign a decision prohibiting further ammunition exports from Serbia, as the country’s “vital national interests” are at stake.

However, he clarified: “Serbia is not preparing for war, but it is ready to save its people’s lives.”

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Furthermore, Vucic stated that he is considering declaring the special units of the Kosovo Police and its intelligence structures as terrorist organisations, following a request from the Serb List political party in northern Kosovo.

This comes after Pristina designated two Serbian organisations as terrorist groups the previous week. The decision regarding this matter will be made within two weeks, with international partners being informed accordingly.

Regarding the allegations against Ms Kearns, the Serbian Ambassador to the US, Marko Djuric, reiterated the claim that she is influenced or funded by an external entity.

He said: “I also believe that the relevant British authorities should investigate in a public and transparent manner her motives for making these deeply damaging and false accusations – playing with the narrative of the radical diaspora associated with Kurti.

“We call on all political leaders to be careful, responsible, and respect the truth when dealing with such sensitive issues. Encouraging understanding and reconciliation among all communities is essential for building a better future.”

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Due to her outspoken support for Kosovo amid the ongoing tensions in the country’s north, Kearns has become a target for Serbia.

She has publicly defended Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s position and criticised the EU and the US for their lenient approach towards Serbia. Kearns pointed out that Belgrade has violated numerous EU agreements, failed to implement others, and regressed in various areas.

Recently, Kearns highlighted the lack of justice in the case of three US citizens of Albanian origin who were killed while in Serbian police custody 24 years ago. Despite assurances from then-Prime Minister Vucic that justice would be served, the case remains unsolved to this day.

In the midst of these developments, Sunak addressed the British Parliament, stressing about the urgent need to de-escalate tensions in the northern region. He called for both sides to return to the negotiating table in order to find a resolution.

He said: “I am particularly concerned about the situation in the north of Kosovo, which you know, and we strongly condemn the unprovoked attacks by protesters against KFOR personnel. The Foreign Secretary has already told the Prime Minister of Kosovo and Serbia that the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina have a responsibility to reduce the tension and prevent further violence.”

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