Brawl erupts in Kosovo’s parliament during prime minister’s speech on defusing tensions with Serbs

Lawmakers push each other as a brawl breaks out Thursday in Kosovo's parliament in Pristina, Kosovo. (AP Photo/Ridvan Slivova)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A brawl erupted in the Kosovo parliament on Thursday after an opposition lawmaker threw water on Prime Minister Albin Kurti while he was speaking about government measures to defuse tensions with ethnic Serbs in the country’s north.

Kosovo opposition parties have criticized Kurti’s policies in the north that have strained relations with key Western allies.


The United States and the European Union have pressured Kurti to help calm the situation after violence broke out in May after police-backed ethnic Albanian mayors took office following an election that the ethnic Serb majority in the area had widely boycotted.

Dozens of people were injured in clashes between local Serbs and Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers, fueling fears of a conflict similar to the one in 1998-99 that killed more than 10,000 people.

On Wednesday, Kurti announced he would reduce the number of special police officers stationed outside four municipal buildings in ethnic Serb-majority areas in northern Kosovo, and hold new mayoral elections in each of the towns.

A number of special police forces has withdrawn from the municipal buildings. The move angered the opposition, who argued that Kurti “experimented” for months and jeopardized Kosovo’s international position only to back down later.

Lawmaker Mergim Lushtaku from the Democratic Party of Kosovo approached Kurti while he was speaking and threw water at him, triggering the brawl. Earlier, Kurti’s deputy Besnik Beslimi had torn up a drawing mocking Kurti that the opposition had given the prime minister.

Local media said Kurti was escorted out of the assembly hall.

Kurti has said he was applying law and order in northern Kosovo with the deployment of police and new ethnic Albanian mayors. The U.S. and the EU had urged him to keep the mayors in different locations away from the north until the situation is resolved.

When the parliament session resumed after four hours, the opposition prevented governing lawmakers from taking the floor and held up mocking posters of Kurti. Another brief scuffling followed, quickly halted by security guards.

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