Moderate Kosovan Serb leader killed in drive-by shooting

A Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

The majority of European Union member states have recognized Kosovo, but Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain have not.

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.

Ivanovic, 64, one of the leaders of Serbs living in Kosovo, was shot dead in the city of Mitrovica earlier in the day.

Today's event is influencing the talks between the two negotiating teams, Kosovo and Serbia, who are now meeting in Brussels to continue their peace dialogue.

He vowed that officials were "committed to solve this case as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to justice".

President Aleksandar Vucic has called an emergency session of the National Security Council meeting. The European Union's Rule of Law mission, EULEX, will support the authorities in accordance with its mandate, the statement said. He declined to comment on whether he believed the killing was ethnically motivated.

Reports say unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanovic in front of the offices of his Citizens' Initiative Party. Doctors in hospital failed to revive him.

Tensions remain high between Mitrovica's ethnic Albanians who number about 72,000 and the 13,000-strong Serb community.

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

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and the government in Pristina "strongly" condemned the assassination, as did representatives of the United Nations and the United States in Kosovo.

"The killing of Oliver Ivanovic challenges the law and any attempt to establish law and order throughout the entire territory of Kosovo", it said in a statement.

Serbian government negotiators walked out of EU-mediated talks with Kosovo Albanians in Brussels after the news. But after a retrial was ordered he was released a year ago and allowed to defend himself while free.

"Serbs are more afraid of Serbs than Albanians", Ivanovic said at the time.

Ivanovic was killed in a brazen drive-by shooting on January 16, 2018, in the north of Mitrovica.

In 2014, he and four other ethnic Serbs were arrested by Kosovo authorities over alleged war crimes.

The group later disbanded but many members moved into organised crime. Ivanovic entered politics and became known for a pragmatist stance advocating dialogue and compromise with Kosovo Albanians, though still rejecting Kosovo sovereignty. "We can't rule out that someone had been planning this for a long time, and wanted to delay the process of the normalization of relations, now being held in Brussels, as well as postpone the creation of a Serbian municipalities association in Kosovo".

Kosovo remains tense, a decade after declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.

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