August 15, 2022

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Kosovo withdraws controversial measures against Serbs after unrest: remove border blockade |  Abroad

Kosovo withdraws controversial measures against Serbs after unrest: remove border blockade | Abroad

ModernizationKosovo has postponed the implementation of two measures targeting Serbs in the north of the country until the first of September. For example, Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government hopes to ease tensions between the police and the Serbian community, which on Sunday set up roadblocks at two border crossings to protest the measures.

Kosovo police on Sunday closed the border crossings at Gareni and Prncak. The crossings were closed with trucks full of gravel and heavy machinery. Police said angry protesters also attacked Albanian bystanders. Shots were also fired at the police, but no injuries were reported. The siren sounded for three hours in the northern town of Mitrovica.

Serbian soldiers began to remove the barriers on the border. Serbian radio station RTS reported that traffic in Merdare has returned to normal. Kosovo actually wanted to require all of its citizens, including many Serbs, to use the Kosovo number plate from Monday. About 50,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo, where there are two closed border crossings, still using Serbian number plates 14 years after Kosovo’s independence.

month delay

This decision was met with so much Serbian resistance that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti decided to postpone this commitment for a month at the request of the United States. Kurti provided for the lifting of the barricades at the border as local Serb residents blocked the road with trucks and heavy machinery. In this way, Kurti hopes to calm the rising tensions in the border region.

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According to RTS, roads reopened almost everywhere Monday morning. However, already on Monday, Serbian citizens will be required to fill out an additional document if they want to go to Kosovo. It is not clear if this measure will be lifted once the blockade is lifted. Residents of Kosovo who wish to travel to Serbia and vice versa really need such a document.

Not the first time

Last year, Prime Minister Albin Corte wanted to put an end to this, but refused to do so due to protests. Demonstrations took place at the same border crossings. Kosovo subsequently deployed special police forces and Serbia deployed warplanes along the border.

Kurti now tried again and gave the Serbs in the northern region 60 days to exchange license plates. All Serbian citizens visiting Kosovo will have to request an additional document from Monday at the border in order to be able to enter the country. Serbia demands the same from Kosovo.

work delay

On Sunday, the weather was turbulent all day long in northern Kosovo, where Serbs mainly live. According to the government of Kosovo, the aim of the siege and shooting operations is to “destabilize Kosovo and threaten the peace and security of our citizens and our country. Several aggressive actions took place this afternoon and evening with the encouragement and plans of the authorities in Belgrade.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a speech earlier in the evening that the situation in Kosovo “wasn’t at all that difficult” for Serbia and Serbs living in Kosovo. “It just boiled,” Vucic said. He added that “Serbia will win” if the Serbs were attacked.

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Amid these escalating tensions, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, President Vuza Osmani and a number of Deputy Prime Ministers held extensive consultations with representatives of the United States and Europe in the country on Sunday. As a result, Corte announced on Sunday night that he wanted to postpone the procedures related to number plates and travel documents for a month. As a condition, the leader of the Kosovo government stated that all barriers at the border crossings were removed on Monday. “The Kosovo government promises to postpone the implementation of two decisions (…) until September 1, 2022, if all barriers are removed by Monday, August 1, and full freedom of movement on all roads in the north of the country is fully restored. “Kosovo”.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, welcomed the delay but added that he hoped “the barriers will be lifted soon”.

United Nations peacekeeping forces

The NATO-led UN peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) described the situation in northern Kosovo as tense and said it was “ready to intervene if stability is threatened” in line with the “UN mandate”. Currently 28 countries contribute to the peacekeeping force established by the United Nations in 1999, and has a combined strength of about 4,000 military and civilian personnel.

In Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman blamed the rising tensions on what she called “unfounded and discriminatory rules” imposed by the Kosovo authorities. Kosovo was recognized as an independent country by more than a hundred countries, but not by Serbia or Russia.