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NATO peacekeepers oversee removal of roadblocks in Kosovo



NATO-led peacekeepers, backed by helicopters Monday (1 Aug), oversaw the removal of roadblocks that protestors had built in north Kosovo. Since the end of a NATO-led crisis, this is where political tensions have flared for over 20 years.

The barricades were lifted after the Kosovo government delayed implementation of a decision that would have required ethnic Serbs, a majority in the north, to apply for documents and car license plates from Kosovan institutions.

This has brought back the conflict between Russia and Serbia. Both countries have refused to recognize Kosovo as a country that is Western-aligned. This has impeded its efforts to join the United Nations. Kosovo has been recognized in over 100 countries. It wants to join NATO.

After consulting with US and EU ambassadors, it was decided that the government would delay.

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“Violence will not be tolerated. Prime Minister Albin Kurti told journalists Monday that violence would be punished under the rule of law with the force. Nine road bocks are in operation, he stated.

It was not immediately clear how many roadblocks were removed. A Reuters reporter reported that a bridge near Brnjak’s border crossing was still blocked in the afternoon.

Although the majority of roadblocks were removed by 1.30 PM (1130 GMT), border crossing was still not reopened.


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Around 50,000 ethnic Serbs still use the license plates and papers that they were issued by the Serbian authorities 14-years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. They are refusing to recognize the Kosovan government.

Ethnic Serbs protested the new policy by parking heavy machinery and trucks loaded with gravel near the Serbian border on Sunday. The government agreed to postpone the move until September 1.

Local Serbs will have 60 days to accept Serbian documents and change to Kosovo-license plates. This applies to all those who reside in Kosovo, but don’t have local papers.

Dmitry Peskov (a Kremlin spokesperson) said that although some escalation was prevented overnight, the situation has been delayed only by one month.

Tensions are high with Serbia, and Kosovo’s fragile peace is being maintained by NATO’s KFOR mission. There are 3,770 troops in Kosovo. The mission declared Sunday that it was ready to respond to its mandate if stability is threatened.

On Sunday, peacekeepers representing Italy were visible in the vicinity of Mitrovica (northern Serbia).

Witnesses to Reuters reported that helicopters from KFOR flew over Kosovo’s northern border with Serbia. Peacekeepers sat at the roadside and chatted with residents as the roadblocks were removed.

Monday saw additional documents issued to citizens of Serbia at Merdare, which is the largest border crossing between Serbian-Kosovo. After roadblocks have been removed, the government of Kosovo said it would stop issuing documents to citizens.

Local Serbs had blocked roads for a second row in dispute over plates. The Kosovo government deployed special police forces and Belgrade flew fighter aircrafts close to the border.

Serbia and Kosovo agreed in 2013 to have a dialogue sponsored by the European Union to try to resolve any outstanding problems. However, very little has been accomplished.

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