PRISTINA: Tear gas was lobbed into the Kosovo parliament on Wednesday halting a vote on a border deal with Montenegro seen as key for Pristina's bid to join the EU.
The agreement, negotiated with Montenegro in 2015, is crucial for Kosovo to obtain visa-free travel in the European Union and eventually join the bloc.
With thick smoke filling parliament all MPs had to evacuate, an AFP correspondent said.
It was unclear who exactly threw the tear gas canister but it came from the area of benches occupied by MPs from the main opposition nationalist leftist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party.
The party is firmly opposed to the border deal claiming it would deprive the Balkan nation of several thousand hectares of land.
Vetevendosje MPs have repeatedly released tear gas as a protest in parliament in the past.
The session was first briefly interrupted but when it resumed at around 1:15 pm (1215 GMT), more tear gas was thrown forcing the lawmakers to leave the hall again.
Police wearing gas masks searched the benches occupied by Vetevendosje MPs.
Party leader Albin Kurti proposed to let Montenegro know that "Kosovo does not accept the deal" and to hold an international conference on the issue.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told deputies Tuesday that the vote was "one of the most important matters for the country."
"Voting for (the ratification) does not endanger Kosovo's territory," said Haradinaj, who opposed the deal before taking over as prime minister last year.
The international community has repeatedly called on Pristina to resolve the issue.
"Violence as a political tool has no place in Kosovo," said US ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie in a tweet Wednesday:
"I urge MPs to reconvene and finish the vote today."
The Montenegrin parliament swiftly ratified the agreement after it was reached in 2015.
But in neighbouring Kosovo, the previous government failed to secure a majority and finally fell in mid-2017.
Kosovo, home to some 1.8 million people mostly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008 after a bitter war in 1998-1999.