EU condemns embassy attacks in Serbia

February 22nd, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, Feb 22 (DPA) European Union (EU) Friday strongly condemned the anti-Kosovo protests that saw angry demonstrators attack a number of foreign embassies in Serbia. “I strongly condemn the attacks perpetrated yesterday against foreign embassies and economic assets in Belgrade which caused important material damage and put human life in danger,” said Olli Rehn, the EU’s enlargement commissioner.

“We respect the democratic right of the Serbian people to voice their opinion on developments in Kosovo, but the use of violence for expressing one’s opinion is unacceptable,” Rehn added.

Thursday, angry Serbian nationalists set fire inside a mostly deserted US embassy and ransacked the Croatian, Turkish, Bosnian and German embassies in protest over the independence of Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic-Albanian province of Serbia.

More than 100 people were injured as demonstrators looted and smashed storefronts across Belgrade while a charred corpse was found inside the US embassy.

Rehn urged the Serbian authorities to protect the diplomatic missions and appealed for calm “in Serbia and in the wider region”.

“We urge all Serbian politicians to call for restraint and avoid statements that could further inflame the situation,” he said.

The commissioner has been leading difficult negotiations aimed at raising Serbia’s prospects of joining the EU at a future date.

Javier Solana, the foreign policy chief of the 27-member bloc, also criticised the protests while attending an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Slovenia.

“Such acts of force lead nowhere,” Solana said.

The EU is in the process of deploying a 1,900-strong policing and justice mission tasked with improving Kosovo’s fledgling justice system and advising its authorities on how to run their newly independent state. EU policemen, judges and prosecutors are to be flanked by 1,100 local staff.

Serbia and its powerful ally Russia say the EU mission violates international law, a claim denied by officials in Brussels.

A dispatch from Berlin said: Germany also condemned the outbreaks of violence in Belgrade.

“If these events are repeated, this would have consequences for the future relationship between Serbian and the EU,” Thomas Steg, government spokesman, said in Berlin.

Steg urged Serbian politicians to “show responsibility” in their public statements on Kosovo’s weekend declaration of independence.

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