Serbia withdraws entire staff from its embassy in Macedonia

Serbia withdraws entire staff from its embassy in Macedonia

BELGRADE, Serbia - The Associated Press
Serbia withdraws entire staff from its embassy in Macedonia

AFP photo

The entire staff of the Serbian Embassy in the Macedonian capital has been withdrawn for urgent consultations in Belgrade in a move that has further strained relations between the Balkan neighbors.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Aug. 21 that the withdrawal was made after intelligence reports of "very offensive acts" planned against Serb interests in Macedonia. He didn't specify, adding that in the next 10 days "everything will be much clearer."

The Macedonian Foreign Ministry said Aug. 21 it "is not aware of the reasons for this decision." 

Macedonian media said that the move was made after Macedonia indicated it will support another bid by Kosovo for membership in U.N. cultural organization UNESCO.

Serbia rejects Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence and is trying to block any of its attempts to join international institutions.

Two years ago, UNESCO's member states narrowly rejected Kosovo's bid for membership in a victory for Serbia and its ally Russia, and a blow to Kosovo's mission for global recognition as a state.

Relations between Serbia and Macedonia have been strained since Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev formed his coalition government with ethnic Albanian parties this spring, almost six months after a parliamentary election.

Both Serbia and Russia have voiced support for Macedonia ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative VMRO-DPMNE party. The party placed first in the election, but without winning a governing majority.

Russia is opposed to Zaev's plans for Macedonia to join NATO.

Serbia and Macedonia were part of the Yugoslav federation that broke up in a bloody civil war in the 1990s.