Opposition politicians in Kosovo used tear gas again inside the parliament building Friday to protest agreements with Serbia and Montenegro.
Before the session, the opposition also threw tear gas near the office of Speaker Kadri Veseli, forcing the evacuation of parliamentary staff. Veseli postponed the parliamentary session. No injuries were reported and no one was arrested.
Hundreds of opposition protesters gathered outside parliament as police in riot gear surrounded the building and other government buildings.
The opposition parties had demanded cancellation of Friday’s session unless the government overturned a European Union-brokered agreement with Serbia to give more power to Serb-dominated areas in Kosovo and an agreement with Montenegro on border demarcation.
Opposition parties, led by the Self-Determination Party and the Alliance for Kosovo’s Future Party, maintain that the agreement with Serbia, which grants ethnic Serbs in Kosovo greater local powers and the possibility of funding from Belgrade, represents a threat to the country’s independence.
They also reject a border agreement reached in Vienna with neighboring Montenegro that they argue causes Kosovo to lose territory.
Friday’s tear gas incident was the third in two weeks. Deputies of both parties said that they are left with no choice, but to block parliamentary proceedings until disputed issues are resolved.
Kosovo, with a predominantly ethnic Albanian population, declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Since then Kosovo has been recognized by more than 110 states including the United States and most of the European Union member countries, but not by Serbia.
Kosovo and Serbia were at war in 1998-1999, which ended after a NATO bombing campaign that forced the Serbian army to withdraw from the territory.
VOA’s Albanian Service contributed to this report.
(Archive photo: The incident earlier in October when tear gas was thrown in the Kosovo parliament)