Washington with sharp criticism for the closure of the branches of the Serbian bank in northern Kosovo

State Department / Photo: MIA

The US State Department has expressed disappointment over the closure of six branches of the Serbian "Banka poštenska štedilnica" in the north of Kosovo by the Kosovo police, noting that "this action was not coordinated with international partners" and that it contributes to increasing tensions in the area.

A spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement to the Voice of America that was broadcast by the media in Pristina, assessed that yesterday's action by the Kosovo police "undermines the perception that Kosovo acts in good faith to resolve disputes with Serbia through the dialogue facilitated by the European Union".

The spokesman noted that "the US government has repeatedly sought coordination between our governments" to support Kosovo's progress on its Euro-Atlantic path, including most recently "from Deputy Secretary of State Elizabeth Allen in her meeting with Prime Minister (Albin) Kurti on May 19."

The State Department reiterated US concerns about measures by the Central Bank of Kosovo to limit the use of the Serbian dinar.

"We call on the Kosovo Government to return to constructive commitments in the dialogue mediated by the EU as a real way to resolve the issues related to the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia and to respond to the basic needs of all its citizens - including the needs of the Serbian minority – that are adversely affected by recent changes in currency regulation,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA.

"Banka poštenska štedilnica" is the institution that distributed payments from Belgrade to citizens of Serbian nationality in Kosovo.

Kosovo police said the operation to close the bank's branches was carried out in cooperation with the Central Bank of Kosovo and the Kosovo Tax Administration, and that the aim was to "establish order and legality", calling the Serbian bank in the north of the country illegal.

The police said that "about one million and 600 thousand euros, 74 million and 700 thousand dinars, 19 thousand and 500 francs, 13 thousand and 800 US dollars, 40 Australian dollars, as well as documentation and other evidence" were confiscated.

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo, Jellalj Svechalja, wrote on social networks that "the rule of law and order, serving all citizens without any distinction will continue to be our goal to which we are continuously committed."

The head of the Office for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia, Petar Petkovic, described the action as "another violent act of abolishing Serbian institutions in the north and persecuting the Serbian people."

He said that "Albin Kurti wants war and suffering for the Serbian people, because everything he does in the last months, he does exclusively for the expulsion of the Serbs from the territory of Kosovo."

Monday's action comes nearly four months after a Central Bank of Kosovo regulation came into effect making the euro the only currency that can be used for cash payments in Kosovo.

Kosovo and Serbia agreed to talk in Brussels with the mediation of the European Union to find a solution to the issue of payments, but without an outcome even after seven meetings.

Diplomats have repeatedly called on the Kosovo government to withdraw the Central Bank regulation and give affected citizens time to adjust to the new situation. This issue became a topic of disagreement between the government in Pristina and Western diplomacy and negatively affected the quality of the partnership with the United States.

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