PRISTINA — Almost two dozen people were wounded Monday when police used tear gas in a clash with hundreds of demonstrators protesting the re-launch of EU-brokered talks between Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo police said they were "forced to intervene" after several hours of a tense stand-off with protesters occasionally throwing stones while police used pepper spray to drive the crowd back from government headquarters in central Pristina.
Later, police said in a statement their officers had to "disperse the violent mob" by using tear gas.
The protest was organised by the Self-Determination Movement, Kosovo's third-biggest political party, which opposes all talks with long-time foe Serbia.
It announced a fresh protest for Tuesday in Pristina.
Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is recognised by some 90 states including 22 of the European Union's 27 members and the United States.
But Belgrade and the Serb minority in Kosovo still consider the territory a southern Serbian province.
Eighteen policemen and five protesters were wounded during Monday's clashes, while 63 members of the movement, including several members of parliament, were detained, the police statement said.
A German woman, wife of one of the movement's members, was among the injured, they said. A local television station said she had been hospitalised and was in coma. The report could not be independently confirmed.
The detained lawmakers were released after they identified themselves as MPs.
After a long pause following Serbian elections in May, the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci, met in Brussels on Friday as a first step to restarting talks aimed at normalising relations and easing tensions in the Balkan region.
"We are protesting against the meeting between Thaci and Dacic, against the political dialogue.... Serbia is an abnormal state and we don't want to 'normalise' our relations," Self-Determination leader Albin Kurti told AFP.
He accused Thaci of "pardoning and rehabilitating Serbia and thus allowing (Belgrade) to continue its path towards the European Union. This Monday cannot be a normal working day for the government after what happened Friday."
Thaci condemned the protest, saying that resistance against dialogue with Serbia was coming from "isolated voices" in Kosovo's political scene, according to his office.
"Those individuals are always against positive processes in Kosovo and are opponents of the independence agenda," Thaci was quoted as saying.
Serbia is an EU candidate and Kosovo hopes to formalise ties with the bloc, but Brussels has made clear to both that they must resume talks and show concrete results.
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