BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbian authorities have banned a former Kosovo president from entering the country to participate in an event designed to boost dialogue between the former war foes, the ex-official and a rights group said Friday.
Atifete Jahjaga was to attend the presentation in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, of a book containing testimonies from women tortured and raped during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
Jahjaga said on her Facebook page that, although her visit was announced in advance, “my entrance to Serbia was made impossible based on an absurd reasoning.” She didn’t elaborate.
Later Friday, police prevented a group of right-wing nationalists, carrying banners and singing patriotic songs, from disrupting the book event. The Youth Initiative for Human Rights group has said Jahjaga will address the gathering via video link.
The festival in Belgrade was organized by liberal groups from Serbia and Kosovo – a former province that declared independence in 2008 against Serbia’s will.
The YIHR group says police have offered no explanation for stopping Jahjaga at the border on Thursday. Serbian police also haven’t immediately responded to a request for a comment.
“The entry ban … is the consequence of political decisions made at the highest levels,” YIHR said in a statement, adding the incident has “only confirmed the importance and need for a more intense and meaningful cooperation.”
Jahjaga said in her statement that “acknowledging the truth about war crimes in Kosovo is the only way both societies can move forward.”
Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to participate in European Union-brokered talks as part of efforts to join the bloc, but tensions have persisted amid a surge in nationalism in the volatile Balkans.