The Latest: Kosovo assures safety after Serb leader's death
Jan. 16, 2018
MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — The Latest on the shooting of a Serb politician in Kosovo (all times local):
Kosovo's Security Council is offering assurances that the country is calm and safe following the slaying of a senior Serb politician.
The council was urgently convened Tuesday to discuss security matters, especially in the country's Serb-dominated north, where Oliver Ivanovic was gunned down earlier in the day.
It determined that "the level of security in the country is calm and stable" and that law enforcement authorities are committed to preserving public order and security of all citizens, according to a statement.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said after the meeting that "Kosovo citizens should not get worried about the level of security. All institutions are on duty," including a NATO-led peacekeeping force.
The Kosovo Force, also known as FFOR, is made up of about 4,500 troops from 31 countries. It has been operating in Kosovo since June 1999, after a 78-day NATO air campaign to stop a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
NATO has condemned the assassination of a leading Serb politician in Kosovo and called on Serbia and Kosovo to return to EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said a NATO-led peacekeeping force established in 1999 "continues to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo" following Tuesday's slaying.
Lungescu says NATO "fully supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and calls for this dialogue to continue as soon as possible. This is critical for regional peace and security."
The Serbian delegation to the EU talks left a previously scheduled session after Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic was shot to death by unknown attackers in northern Kosovo.
Lungescu urged "all parties to exercise restraint to defuse tensions, and allow the judicial authorities to carry out a full investigation."
This entry has been corrected to show that the NATO spokeswoman's last name is Lungescu, not Lunge.
The prime minister of Kosovo has suggested that the slaying of a leading politician in the country's Serb-dominated north resulted from the "illegal involvement in the north of other institutions beyond Kosovo."
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj spoke Tuesday at a news conference following a meeting of Kosovo's National Security Council. The council convened after Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic was shot to death in Serb-controlled Mitrovica.
Haradinaj didn't elaborate on what outside forces he was accusing of being involved in Ivanovic's slaying.
He said he was open to inviting foreign law enforcement agencies such as the FBI to help with the investigation, but he turned down Serbia's call to be involved.
The prime minister also said he was surprised that the Serb delegation left a previously scheduled EU-mediated dialogue with Kosovo leaders after Ivanovic was killed.
Avni Arifi, who heads the Kosovo delegation at the EU talks in Brussels with Serbia, called on Belgrade to return to the negotiations.
At the news of Kosovo Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic's slaying on Tuesday, the Serb delegation at the EU talks in Brussels immediately left to return to Belgrade.
But Arifi told the Klan Kosova TV station that "there is no alternative to the dialogue." He says the stance of Kosovo "is that we invite the Serb side to implement all the deals, to talk on any challenge in this process and to work on permanently normalizing ties between us."
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo to express the EU's condemnation of the killing and appealed for both sides "to show calm and restraint."
A European Union mission that monitors Kosovo's justice system has strongly condemned "the act of criminal terror" that left moderate Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic dead.
Ivanovic was gunned down Tuesday morning in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica.
A statement Tuesday called "for a swift and efficient action by the authorities that leads to the arrest of the perpetrators of this horrendous act."
It said the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, or EULEX, "stands ready to offer its assistance."
The EULEX mission has supported Kosovo on its path to European integration in the areas of rule of law and fighting corruption since 2008, when Pristina declared independence from Serbia. EULEX's mandate expires in June.
Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has called for a meeting of the country's National Security Council later Tuesday following the killing of Oliver Ivanovic, leader of an ethnic Serb political party, as he entered his party offices in the northern city of Mitrovica.
The government statement said the council "will discuss the general security situation in the country."
Kosovo police have offered a 10,000-euro ($12,250) reward for information on the attackers.
People from Kosovo's Serb minority say they are in shock over the killing of a moderate politician who was gunned down in an attack in a northern town.
Zivorad Lazic, from the central town of Gracanica, says the attack on Oliver Ivanovic earlier on Tuesday comes "as we hope to live as normal people."
Lazic adds the killing will "affect the Kosovo people."
Slobodan Petrovic, another Kosovo Serb lawmaker, says Ivanovic's death will be a huge loss for the Serb community in Kosovo, where tensions have simmered since the 1998-99 war.
Petrovic warns that "we may have a lot of consequences" if authorities fail to find the killers.
Ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade does not recognize the split.
Serbia's foreign minister says the killing in Kosovo of a leading Serb politician is threatening the stability of both Kosovo and the Balkan region.
Ivica Dacic told reporters during a visit to Montenegro Tuesday that the attack earlier in the day on Oliver Ivanovic presented a "senseless terrorist act."
Dacic adds "the most important thing is to preserve stability in the north of Kosovo," a Serb-dominated part of predominantly ethnic Albanian nation.
He insists that "when the stability of northern Kosovo is jeopardized, the stability of the entire Kosovo and the whole region is under threat." Dacic adds "this is a big blow and shot into the interests of the Serbian people in Kosovo."
Ivanovic was considered a moderate politician in the former Serbian province deeply divided along ethnic lines.
The United Nations' senior official in Kosovo has strongly condemned the slaying of a Serb political leader in Kosovo.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, Zahir Tanin, said Tuesday he was shocked and strongly condemned the killing of Oliver Ivanovic.
He urged investigative authorities to "work swiftly and effectively" and assured them that "all the international agencies on the ground are ready to support the authorities in any manner which may assist the swift apprehension of those responsible."
The U.N. mission governed Kosovo following Serbia's bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999 and the NATO bombing that stopped it. After 2008, when Kosovo declared independence, it is playing a more minor role.
Serbia's president says the country is demanding that international missions in Kosovo include his country in their investigation into the killing of a leading Serb politician in the tense region.
President Aleksandar Vucic said Tuesday that Serbia views the fatal attack on Oliver Ivanovic in Kosovo earlier in the day as a "terrorist act." He says "Serbia will take all necessary measures so the killer or killers are found."
Vucic says "there are interesting details that point who might be the killers." He did not elaborate.
Serbia lost authority over Kosovo after the 1998-99 war and the former Serbian province declared independence in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize the split.
Vucic says the Serbian delegation has left EU-mediated talks in Brussels on normalizing ties with Kosovo because "it makes no sense to talk in such circumstances."
The European Union's foreign policy chief has called the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo to express the EU's condemnation of the killing of Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic and make an appeal for calm.
The morning shooting came as both sides were about to start EU-mediated technical talks in Brussels on improving relations. It was unclear if there was any link between the two.
The EU said in a statement that Federica Mogherini said in her phone calls that the authorities in Kosovo should "spare no effort to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice without delay."
She also called on both sides "to show calm and restraint."
Mogherini last hosted the two presidents for talks last in September, the third such encounter last year. Talks between the two sides at a working group level should have resumed on Tuesday for the first time since the end of 2016.
The international community has strongly denounced the slaying of a Serb leader in Kosovo.
The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu, on Tuesday said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" and considered Oliver Ivanovic as "among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives for almost two decades ... (with) relentless engagement for the benefit of his community and has been a valued interlocutor in Kosovo."
"This will be a major test for rule of law in Kosovo," Braathu said.
The U.S. Ambassador to Pristina Greg Delawie called on judicial bodies "to investigate this incident swiftly and professionally, and bring the perpetrators to justice."
He also urged "all sides to avoid dangerous rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time, and recommit themselves to continue the work toward the normalization of relations and improvement of the lives of the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia."
Last weekend the State Department warned its citizens to "exercise increased caution in Kosovo due to terrorism."
Kosovo prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj says he considers the slaying of Serb minority political leader Oliver Ivanovic as "a punishable criminal act."
Reacting on his Facebook page to Ivanovic's death earlier Tuesday, Haradinaj said that "exploiting this tragic act for daily political goals, even to block processes aiming at normalizing ties between two countries, is against the logic and spirit of cooperation."
The talks between Serbia and Kosovo at the European Union have been suspended after the killing.
"Kosovo remains committed to create a safe environment for all its citizens and is powerfully set in its Euro-Atlantic path," Haradinaj said.
He also insisted that Kosovo authorities will do their utmost to clarify the killing adding that they will "in no situation accept the logic of calculating criminal acts for political purposes by anyone."
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has strongly denounced the killing of a Serb political leader in the northern city of Mitrovica.
Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Citizens' Initiative Freedom, Democracy, Justice party was shot dead Tuesday morning by still-unknown assailants.
In a reaction on his Facebook page Thaci called on law enforcement authorities "to throw light as soon as possible on the circumstances of the death so that the perpetrators are brought to justice."
He also urged citizens in the north to cooperate with police.
The talks between Serbia and Kosovo at the European Union have been suspended after the killing of Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic.
The 28-nation EU said it "strongly condemns the murder" and it expects authorities "to spare no effort to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the EU calls on all sides "to show calm and restraint."
Talks between the two should have resumed on a technical level on Tuesday after they stopped in March last year when Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, then leader of the opposition Kosovo Future Alliance party, was detained in France pending a court decision whether he would be extradited to Serbia. He was released the following month.
Kosovo police have officially confirmed the shooting death of Serb political leader Oliver Ivanovic.
A statement Tuesday described how Ivanovic was shot at 8:10 a.m. near his office in Sutjeska Street in the northern city of Mitrovica.
Ivanovic was taken to the hospital where doctors confirmed his death.
The statement adds that about an hour later an Opel Astra car was found burned out in another Mitrovica street, and police believe that it was used by the perpetrators.
The investigation is continuing.
Serbian state television says that the country's delegation has walked out of an EU-mediated dialogue with Kosovo leaders after the killing of a leading Serb politician in Kosovo.
The report said Tuesday that the Serbian team is on its way back to Belgrade from Brussels after unknown assailants shot and killed Oliver Ivanovic in Serb-held Mitrovica early Tuesday.
The killing is likely to heighten tensions in Kosovo amid attempts to normalize ties between the former foes. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade has refused to recognize the split.
Some 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo which ended after NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999.
Doctors say that Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso when shot by unknown assailants.
Milan Ivanovic, the head of Mitrovica hospital and who is not related to the politician, said Tuesday that doctors attempted to save Ivanovic but could do nothing.
Unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanovic outside the offices of his political party in an action that is likely to stir tensions in Kosovo almost exactly 10 years after it declared independence from Serbia.
The region has remained tense despite efforts by EU officials to mediate talks between Serbia and Kosovo leaders on normalizing ties. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence.
A Serbian official says that the killing in Kosovo of a leading Serb politician is a "criminal act of terror" aimed at pushing the volatile region into chaos.
Marko Djuric, the Serbian government's official dealing with Kosovo, said Tuesday that "whoever is behind this attack ... whether they are Serb, Albanian or any other criminals, they must be punished."
Djuric adds that the attack earlier Tuesday on Oliver Ivanovic in Mitrovica "is an attempt to push the Serbian people into chaos, to push Serbia into chaos."
Kosovo remains tense, a decade after declaring independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the split and EU-mediated talks have been underway in a bid to normalize ties.
About 10,000 people died in the 1998-99 war between Serb forces and Kosovo ethnic Albanian rebels.
The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the slaying of a leading Serb politician in northern Mitrovica and says it consicers it to be a challenge to "the rule of law and efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory."
The government issued a statement Tuesday following the death of Oliver Ivanovic, who was shot in the morning outside the offices of his Citizens' Initiative party in the northern city of Mitrovica.
"Violence is unacceptable, without taking into consideration where it comes from and toward whom it is directed," said the statement.
The government also invited all citizens to cooperate and urged law-enforcement institutions to seize the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Serbian state television says that President Aleksandar Vucic has called a top security meeting after the shooting death in Kosovo of a leading Serb politician.
Vucic also will address the public at 1200 GMT on Tuesday about the death of Oliver Ivanovic, who was shot Tuesday morning in Serb-held northern Mitrovica.
Media reports say that unknown assailants opened fire at Ivanovic outside the offices of his Citizens' Initiative party in Mitrovica. Ivanovic's lawyer, Nebojsa Vlajic, confirmed Ivanovic died of wounds sustained in the attack.
The attack is likely to heighten ethnic tensions in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.
The lawyer for leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic says he has been shot dead.
"Unfortunately, I wish it weren't true, but doctors declared Oliver dead at 9:30 this morning," Nebojsa Vlajic, Ivanovic's lawyer confimed to The Associated Press by phone.
Serbian media reported that unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanovic in front of the offices of his Citizens' Initiative Party.
The 64-year-old was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions remain high a decade after it declared independence.
A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial had been underway.
Serbian media are reporting that a leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo, Oliver Ivanovic, has been shot.
There was no immediate confirmation by the police in Kosovo of the reported incident on Tuesday morning. Reports say unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanovic in front of the offices of his Citizens' Initiative Party.
Serbia's state television says that doctors are struggling to save Ivanovic's life, while Vecernje Novosti daily reported that Ivanovic has died.
The 64-year-old is one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions remain high a decade after it declared independence.
A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial is underway.