New tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, NATO says it is “ready to intervene”

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Under pressure from Western powers and in the face of border blockades, Pristina announced the postponement of the entry into force of new controversial measures against Kosovo Serbs.

The situation in Kosovo “has never been so complex” for Serbs living there and for Serbia in general, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday. Tension has increased a bit between Kosovo and Serbia in the context of the new border and administrative rules decided by Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.

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Under the new law, which was due to take effect on Monday, anyone who enters Kosovo with a Serbian identity card must replace it with a temporary document during their stay in the country, according to a decision by the Kosovo government. The local prime minister, Albin Kurti, had invoked the principle of “reciprocity” since Belgrade imposes the same regime on Kosovars entering Serbia.

Pristina had also given Kosovo Serbs two months to replace Serbian registration plates on their vehicles with plates from the Republic of Kosovo. According to local media estimates, 10,000 vehicles circulating in Kosovo carry plates issued by Belgrade.

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‘Serbia will win’ if Serbs are attacked

Belgrade has never recognized the independence proclaimed by Kosovo in 2008, a decade after a bloody war that left 13,000 dead, most of them Kosovar Albanians. Since then, the region has been the scene of episodic friction.

Kosovo’s estimated 120,000 Serbs, about a third of whom live in the north of the territory, do not recognize Pristina’s authority and remain loyal to Belgrade, on which they depend economically.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an address to the nation on Sunday that the situation in Kosovo “has never been more complex” for Serbia and the Serbs living there.

“The atmosphere has been boiling,” said Aleksandar Vucic, adding that “Serbia will win” if the Serbs are attacked.

For his part, Albin Kurti accused Aleksandar Vucic of generating “problems”. “The coming hours, days and weeks may be difficult and troublesome,” the Kosovar president wrote on Facebook.

Barricades at the border

In protest on Sunday night, hundreds of Kosovar Serbs massed trucks, tankers and other heavy vehicles on the roads leading to the Jarinje and Brnjak junctions. Then a crowd settled around the barricades, with the declared intention of spending the night there.

Kosovo police said they were attacked in the north of the country where barricades were erected. The shots caused no injuries, police said in a statement. Both crossings were closed to traffic.

The Serb minority in Kosovo began dismantling the barriers on Monday. Protesters removed trucks and other heavy vehicles that had been blocking access to a border post since Sunday. The dismantling of the barricades that paralyze a second border post continued in the early afternoon.

NATO ready to intervene

Pressured by Western powers and in particular by the United States, a great ally of Kosovo, Pristina announced this Sunday night the postponement of the entry into force of the new measures for a month, until September 1. The postponement was announced in a government statement after a meeting with the US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Honevier.

NATO forces deployed in Kosovo had warned that they would “intervene if stability is compromised”.

Last September, the north of Kosovo was the scene of strong tensions, after Pristina’s decision to ban Serbian license plates on its territory, punctuated by daily demonstrations and traffic blockades at the two border posts.

Author: Salome Robles with AFP
Source: BFM TV

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