Bulgarian PM Borissov condemns murder of Serb politician Ivanović in Kosovo


PRISTINA/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, who was standing trial over the killings of ethnic Albanians during the 1998-99 war, was shot dead on Tuesday in what Serbia called an act of terrorism.

Ivanovic, one of the leaders of Kosovo Serbs was gunned down on Tuesday morning when he was entering the entrance to a building where his party is located.

The shooter is still unknown, though police said they believe a burned out vehicle found in the city could be linked to the killing.

On Monday, Serbia's government said it will resume its talks for normalisation of relations with Kosovo this week after a suspension that had lasted for more than a year.

In February 2017, his conviction was overturned and the case was sent back for a retrial. Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in February 2008 and has so far been recognised by 108 of the 193 United Nations members states.

"This is a terrorist act as far as the state of Serbia is concerned, and our stance.will be in line with that", Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said after an emergency meeting of his national security council.

Both Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials refrained from explicitly accusing each other of being behind the killing as the worldwide community urged the two sides to remain calm.

Answering a question on how the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic could influence the dialog with Pristina, Juric said: "What can we talk about now?"

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Ivanovic's arrest in 2014 led to protests by ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and strong objections from Belgrade, which does not recognize the independence of its former province.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi strongly condemned the crime through a Facebook post and called on local authorities to put justice into place.

Following the murder, the Serbian government said that it withdrew its delegation from the new round of talks for normalisation of relations with Kosovo in Brussels.

An EU-backed Kosovo court sentenced Ivanovic in 2015 to a nine-year jail term after it found him guilty of encouraging the killings of captured ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovska Mitrovica in April 1999.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air campaign eventually forced Serbia to withdraw its troops, but European Union monitors remain in Kosovo.

According to him, whoever is behind the murder of Ivanovic, be it Albanian or Serb criminals, they must be held responsible.

Ivanovic lived in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica.