Serbia sends Kosovo 1,000 test kits in solidarity against coronavirus

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Serbia delivered 1,000 coronavirus test kits to Kosovo on Friday, a health official said, in a sign of solidarity despite trade frictions, violent recent history and Kosovo’s failure to gain acceptance by Serbia as an independent country.

A Serbian official familiar with the delivery said Belgrade dispatched the kits without any political conditions but with “solely the desire to help overcome this virus problem”.

“This (coronavirus) is a stark reminder that we can resolve many problems only together,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Faik Hoti, the spokesman of Kosovo’s Health Ministry, confirmed Serbia’s donation. He said on Facebook the donation would be added to 3,100 test kits in stock and the winner of a tender for 13,000 more would be announced on Friday.

Kosovo has reported 449 infections, including of 17 health workers, and 11 dead among its people of 2 million, made up mostly of ethnic Albanians and a small Serbian minority.

Serbia so far reported 5,690 confirmed cases and 110 deaths from the coronavirus infection.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo after the NATO bombing in 1999 to drive out Serb forces following a counter-insurgency in which more than 13,000 people, mainly Kosovo Albanians, were killed.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade does not recognise the move.

EU-sponsored talks between Kosovo and Serbia came to a halt in November 2018 when Kosovo introduced a 100% tax on goods produced in Serbia.

(This story corrects number of confirmed cases in Serbia to 5,690, from 5,790 in paragraph 6)

Reporting by Bardh Krasniqi in Prishtina and Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Nick Macfie