Kosovo opposition MPs detained releasing tear gas in parliament building

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
PRISTINA
Published 30.11.2015 21:08
Updated 30.11.2015 21:18
Opposition lawmakers throw tear gas during a session of Kosovo's parliament in Pristina, Kosovo, 30 November 2015 (EPA photo)
Opposition lawmakers throw tear gas during a session of Kosovo's parliament in Pristina, Kosovo, 30 November 2015 (EPA photo)

Kosovo police detained three opposition MPs for questioning Monday after tear gas was used to disrupt parliament for a fifth time, two days ahead of a rare visit by a US Secretary of State.

Opposition deputies have for two months brought the work of parliament to a standstill in protest against an EU-brokered agreement giving more autonomy to Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority.

The latest incident, condemned as a "violent obstruction" by the European Union's office in Kosovo, comes ahead of the first visit to Pristina by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday.

Kosovo, which is predominantly ethnic Albanian, broke away from Serbia in 2008 -- a move that the United States was among the first nations to recognise, but one that has been consistently denied by Belgrade.

The European Union has been brokering talks and agreements between Serbia and Kosovo in an attempt to improve relations between the two sides, which fought a 1998-1999 war.

But Kosovo's opposition is deeply opposed to plans to set up an association of Serb-run municipalities in Kosovo, which it says will deepen Kosovo's ethnic divide and increase the influence of Serbia.

Protesters also reject a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, arguing it has led to a loss of territory.

Opposition MPs Haxhi Shala and Sami Kurteshi were detained Monday after they released tear gas in the parliamentary chamber and at a police cordon inside the parliament building.

Another MP, Fisnik Ismajli was arrested as he tried to smuggle two tear gas canisters into the parliament, police said in a statement.

The parliament's president subsequently suspended opposition MPs from the day's session.

The detentions bring to five the number of MPs currently being held over recent demonstrations, including the high-profile protester Albin Kurti, from the opposition Self-Determination party.

He was detained along with 86 members of the party on Saturday after addressing a protest attended by several thousands opposing the deal with Serbia.

The EU's office in Pristina released a statement hailing the "peaceful conduct" of the weekend protest while condemning Monday's use of tear gas.

"This kind of violent obstruction is neither acceptable nor will it solve any problem for the citizens of Kosovo," said the statement.

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