BELGRADE, Serbia

Serbian will not allow “extremists” to provoke ethnic tension and unrest, said the country’s president Wednesday, referring to a recent controversy over spiking coronavirus cases in a southwestern Bosniak city.

After the Muslim-majority city of Novi Pazar become a hotbed of the virus, many on social media claimed that the Serbian government failed to provide enough equipment or medical staff to the city, with some saying this happens because most of its residents are ethnic Bosniaks.

“Some want to politically exploit this situation in Novi Pazar,” President Aleksandar Vucic told local RTV Pink.

“I will not allow anyone to provoke quarrels among Serbs and Bosniaks,” he added.

“I will not allow irresponsible people to bring unrest to us,” he said, blaming this on “extremists.”

He added that 12 more nurses and doctors are being sent to Novi Pazar in order to boost healthcare capabilities there.

“I don’t care who’s a Serb and who’s a Bosniak, every citizen of Serbia will get the best possible help and support,” Vucic said.

Vucic said that the hospital in Novi Pazar is very modern and is outfitted with all necessary equipment, and that his government has invested heavily in that part of the country, despite “lies and untruths” claiming otherwise.

“We have invested more in Novi Pazar, Tutin, and Sjenica than any other government has done since [communist leader Marshal] Tito, and in the next two or three years we will surpass what that government has done,” he argued.

“When you play with such things when people are sick and fighting for their lives, that is not appropriate,” he said.

When the people of Novi Pazar asked for a Turkish consulate in the city, he welcomed the idea without a problem, said Vucic.

About a week ago 20 doctors and almost 40 nurses in Novi Pazar’s hospital were infected with the coronavirus.

Jasmina Curic, head of the Bosniak National Council (BNV) in Serbia, has requested medical help from Turkey.

Serbia to date has reported 14,564 virus cases and 277 deaths.

Earlier this year Turkey sent two truckloads of medical supplies to Novi Pazar, a former Ottoman territory with a large Muslim population.

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