Mysterious Balkan Assassination Threatens Regional Peace

The always narrow and winding path to peace in Southeastern Europe hit a major obstruction this morning with the murder of Oliver Ivanović, the leader of the Serbs of Kosovo, who was gunned down in a drive-by killing in Kosovska Mitrovica. That city is precariously divided between Kosovo’s Albanian majority and Serbian minority, and Ivanović had been the latter’s political boss since the 1999 war that dragged NATO into that messy ethnic conflict.

The 64-year-old Ivanović was murdered in front of his political party’s office by a gunman in a moving car. Local media in Kosovo claim the car has been found, burned out, but as of this hour no suspects have been officially named, much less located. Shot five times with a pistol, Ivanović was dead on arrival at a local hospital.

His murder fell on the exact day that representatives of Serbia and Kosovo were set to meet in Brussels to normalize relations between them. Since the 1999 war, Belgrade has remained unreconciled to the loss of its former province—keeping Kosovo in Serbia was the issue that led to the rise of Slobodan Milošević, while its loss at the hands of NATO caused his downfall—and finally there seemed to be some hope for progress, after years of cajoling by the European Union. Ivanović’s murder has undone any forward movement on the Kosovo issue.

Already, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has denounced the assassination as an “act of terror” while convening an emergency national security meeting in Belgrade to discuss the killing and its aftermath. Predictably, today Serbian representatives in Brussels walked out of the long-awaited meeting with Kosovo Albanian counterparts in protest over Ivanović’s murder.

Read the rest at The Observer …