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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Serbia-Kosovo border tensions escalate
Defence Redefined
Published on 27/09/2021 at 15:30

Tensions escalated along the disputed Kosovo-Serbia border at the weekend as ethnic Serbs set a government office ablaze and hurled hand grenades at another, in protest over a ban on cars with Serbian licence plates entering Kosovo.

Drivers from Serbia must now use temporary printed registration details valid for 60 days in the neighbouring country. Members of the Serb minority in Kosovo are demonstrating against Pristina’s new directive that incoming cars replace Serbian registration plates with temporary ones. Kosovo authorities say the order is a reciprocal response to a measure enforced by Belgrade since 2008.

Serbia’s president Alexander Vucic described the move as a “criminal action”. Pristina insisted it was merely mirroring long-standing rules imposed by Serbia on Kosovo drivers. But Serbians, who still view Kosovo as a province, were angered that the country announced tit for tat regulation like a fellow sovereign nation.

Kosovo, 90 per cent populated by ethnic Albanians, unilaterally declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, a move that Serbia never recognised. There have been occasional flare-ups between the neighbours ever since and the fraught relationship remains one of the largest stumbling blocks to the two countries joining the EU.

Also read: Hellenic Force in Kosovo | Deputy Defence Minister’s visit to Pristina

Kosovo ordered special police to the border last week after ethnic Serbs blockaded two crossing points. Belgrade sent tanks to the region, with local media running footage of them rolling towards the Kosovo border.

Serbian Defence Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, inspecting troops on the border last week, said Serbia stood ready to protect its citizens. Serbian troops were on a heightened state of alert on Sunday after the government in Belgrade accused neighbouring Kosovo of “provocations” by sending special police units to the border.

On September 26, MiG-29 fighter jets from the Serbian Air Force flew over Kosovo’s Jarinje border crossing where ethnic Serb protesters have been blocking the road with trucks for the past week. 

Diplomatic pressure 

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell urged Serbia and Kosovo to reduce tensions by immediately withdrawing special police units and dismantling roadblocks, while any further provocations or unilateral and uncoordinated actions are unacceptable.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken on the phone to the Serbian president and Kosovo Prime Minister saying that it’s vital both Belgrade and Pristina show restraint and return to dialogue. NATO troops have been deployed in Kosovo since the 1998-99 Serbian-Kosovo conflict.

With information from: Financial Times, defenceredefined.com.cy

Also read: EU | Kosovo’s European course goes through comprehensive normalization of relations with Serbia

 

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