Tennis legend Novak Djokovic declared support for the Serbs in Kosovo on Monday amid conflict in the northern region of Kosovo that resulted in injuries for the Nato peacekeeping force.
"As a Serb, it hurts me a lot what is happening in Kosovo ....The least I could do is this, I feel responsible as a public figure and the son of a man who was born in Kosovo. I feel the need to show support to all of Serbia. I don't know what the future holds for the Serbian people and Kosovo but it is very necessary to show support," Djokovic said at a press conference after his first round match at the French Open.
Kosovo is the heart of Serbia
The Serbian also wrote a message saying 'Kosovo is the heart of Serbia' on a screen where players put up their messages following matches. He did this after he defeated American Aleksandar Kovacevic in the first round of the Grand Slam match.
"I am against wars and any conflict, I have always expressed this in public ... Kosovo is our hearth, our stronghold, the biggest battle took place there, the most important monasteries are located there," Djokovoc added.
Djokovoc's act of expressing political opinion in strong terms came after the long-standing Serb-Albanian conflict attracted international attention following the clashes between Serbs and Nato forces in the northern territory of Zvecan.
Nato said the violence was "totally unacceptable" after some 25 peacekeepers were injured in the clashes.
The incident happened after Nato soldiers used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds of Serbians who were protesting against the installation of Albanian mayors in towns in the region following a flawed election. According to Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, more than 50 Serbs were injured in the clashes and needed hospital treatment.
Though Kosovo, which was a former province of Serbia is majority ethnic Albanians, the northern regions are majority Serbs. The Serbs in the region boycotted the local elections but the Albanian controlled government of Kosovo went ahead with the elections, leading to a voter turnout of less than 5 percent.
However, the Albanians who were elected in the flawed polls were allowed to take office in majority Serb municipalities, triggering protests by the Serbs.
The EU and US have criticized the Kosovan authorities over the worsening of the strenuous ethnic situation in the region, according to the BBC.
The outfit added that the heavy-handed actions of Kosovo police also infuriated the Serbs. "Further provoking them was the fact Serbian flags had been removed from municipal buildings and replaced with Kosovo flags" the outfit said.
Meanwhile, Kosovo prime minster Albin Kurti said democratically elected mayors should be allowed to take office, a claim the Serbs rubbish. "Do not allow those fake mayors to enter here because they won 50 votes ... Even Albanians are not voting for it," said Igor Simic, the leader the Serb List, which is the biggest Kosovo Serb party in Kosovo.
Serbian President Vucic said Kosovo's Albanian prime minister was trying to provoke a major conflict between the Serbs and NATO. He said Serbia will not allow a pogrom or the killing of its people.