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Kosovo Serbs are dismantling barricades on the Serbian border

#Kosovo #Serbs #dismantling #barricades #Serbian #border

Serbs in northern Kosovo on Monday removed barricades blocking two crossings along the border with Serbia after authorities in Pristina postponed implementation of new travel measures that sparked tensions.

According to an AFP reporter, trucks and roadblocks were cleared hours after a series of shootings and air raid sirens in northern Kosovo caused tensions to rise in the disputed area, home to both Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

The roads to both border crossings were open again on Monday afternoon.

The area has long been a flashpoint between the two communities after the bitter war in the 1990s that sparked a NATO bombing campaign that paved the way for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.

The recent unrest followed a decision by the Kosovar authorities to introduce new travel documents for people entering the territory with Serbian identity cards.

The government also said ethnic Serbs who have Serbia-issued vehicle registration plates must exchange them for Kosovar number plates within two months.

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti described the new rules as a two-way move, mimicking the regulations imposed on Kosovars traveling to Serbia.

However, after a meeting with the US ambassador in the capital Pristina late Sunday, Kurti appeared to be backing down and postponing the implementation of the measures by a month.

On Monday, Kurti railed against the alleged perpetrators behind the weekend riots.

“We call on the international forces, western democratic capitals, the European Union and NATO to condemn the violence and aggression of the criminal gangs in northern Kosovo, which are clearly organized and financed by Belgrade,” the prime minister told reporters.

The blocking of roads in northern Kosovo and reports of police shooting on Sunday fueled fears that unrest would spread further in the tense region.

In a forceful statement from NATO forces stationed in the territory, the alliance vowed to “intervene if stability in Kosovo is threatened.”

Serbs in northern Kosovo have long refused to recognize Pristina’s authority and have remained largely loyal to the Serbian government in Belgrade, which provides lucrative financial support to their community.

EU-led talks between Kosovo and Serbia, launched in 2011 to normalize relations between the former enemies, have failed to reach an agreement.

Kosovo is recognized by about 100 states, including the United States and most EU countries, while Serbia and its powerful allies China and Russia refuse to recognize its independence.

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