Novak Djokovic reflected on the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo after his first match at the French Open.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic sparked a controversy at the French Open after writing a message on the recent flare-up between Serbia and Kosovo.
“Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence,” the world number three and winner of 22 Grand Slam titles wrote in the Serbian’s camera lens, after his first-round victory over American Aleksandar Kovacevic in Paris on Monday.
“Kosovo is our cradle, our fortress, the center of the most important things for our country… There are many reasons why I wrote that on camera,” the 36-year-old later said, according to the radio of RFI media in Serbia.
Over the weekend, violent clashes between Kosovo’s police and NATO-led peacekeepers on the one hand, and local Serbs on the other left many people injured on both sides.
Tensions began after Serbs boycotted last month’s local elections held in northern Kosovo, where Serbs are the majority, and newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors moved into their offices with the help of riot police in Kosovo.
Kosovo is a predominantly ethnic Albanian populated territory that was once a province of Serbia.
It declared its independence in 2008 which was recognized by about 100 countries, except Serbia, Russia, China and five other countries of the European Union.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said 52 Serbs were injured while Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani accused Vucic of trying to destabilize the self-declared republic.
The NATO spokesman issued a statement condemning the attack and “calling on all sides to refrain from actions that further exacerbate tensions, and to communicate”.
Speaking to Serbian media, Djokovic emphasized that he is not a politician, nor does he seek to enter into debates.
“Of course it is very painful for me as a Serbian to see what is happening in Kosovo and the way our people are almost being kicked out of the municipal offices, so the least I can do is this,” he said.
“As a public figure but also as a son of someone born in Kosovo I feel more responsibility to express my support to our people and to Serbia as a whole,” he said and added that he sympathized with all people but what happened in Kosovo “is a standard of international law”.
This is not the first time Djokovic has stirred up political tension.
At the Australian Open in January, he defended his father who posed with fans holding Russian flags.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT), which organizes the event, told the Reuters news agency that “there are no official rules at the Grand Slam on what the players can or cannot say and said they are no longer comment on this matter. FFT will not make any statement or take any stand on this matter.