Protesting Serbs in northern Kosovo start removing barricades | Conflict News

Roadblocks near the main border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia have been removed, according to state broadcaster RTS and the Kosovo police, citing a move that paves the way for reducing tensions and -increasing and changing areas.

Cars and trucks are lined up in front of the border from the Serbian side where the road is closed, the report said on Thursday, while the Kosovo police announced that the crossing was opened.

It came a few hours Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the Serb protesters agreed to begin removing the blockade that blocked the road for 19 days in northern Kosovo.

Vucic, who met with Serbs from northern Kosovo in the Serbian town of Raska, said on Wednesday evening that the blockade would be lifted but distrust would remain.

“Players [the] The existence of the Serbs in Kosovo must know that, as we do not allow it now, we will not allow it in the future,” he said.

Kosovo police patrol the bridge that separates southern Albania from the northern, Serb-dominated part of the ethnically-dominated city of Mitrovica.
Kosovo police patrol the bridge that separates southern Albania from the northern, Serb-dominated part of the ethnically-dominated city of Mitrovica. [Visar Kryeziu/AP]

The European Union and the United States, which are conducting talks between Belgrade and Pristina to resolve the difficult conflict, have promised that none of the Serbs who set up barriers will be sued, he added. .

The EU and the US said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they accepted “the assurances of the Kosovo authorities that no list of Kosovo Serb citizens will be arrested or prosecuted for peaceful protest/prohibition exists”.

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“At the same time, the rule of law must be respected, and any form of violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the statement added.

Serbian state media said Vucic traveled to the border with Kosovo for talks with Kosovo Serbs to try to convince them to end their blockade.

Think again… what would we gain if there were obstacles? I can tell you 500 things we can achieve if they are removed,” Vucic said during the meeting, reported by the state-controlled broadcaster RTS.

Serbia has put its army on its highest alert on Monday as the situation in the north of Kosovo appears to be under control of Kosovo and on Wednesday it closed its border with Serbian territory.

On Tuesday night, many protesters on the Serbian side of the border used trucks and tractors to block the road leading to Merdare, the main crossing between the neighbors. The move prompted Kosovo police to close the entry point on Wednesday.

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A Kosovo police statement said, “Such illegal restrictions have prevented the freedom and movement of people and goods, so we call on our citizens and our countrymen to use other areas to share the territory.”

Pristina has asked NATO-led peacekeepers to clear the roadblocks erected on Kosovo soil, adding that its forces may also remove the protesters.

The EU and the US have expressed concern about the situation and urged an immediate de-escalation, saying they are working with Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to find a political solution to one of the worst crises in ‘in the belly between the Balkan neighbors. .

“We call on everyone to exercise restraint, to take immediate action to de-escalate the situation, and refrain from provocation, threats, or harassment,” they said in their joint statement. .

Earlier on Wednesday, a Kosovo Serb police officer, whose arrest on December 10 sparked protests by Kosovo’s Serb minority – including roadblocks – was released from custody and placed in prison after a request from the prosecutor’s office. , a spokesman for Pristina. Basic Court told Reuters.

Dejan Pantic was arrested for assaulting a police officer on duty. The verdict angered Kosovo government officials, including Prime Minister Kurti and Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu.

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“I’m curious to see who was the attorney that made this request, who was the original judge that approved it,” Kurti said.

Italian KFOR troops, part of NATO's peacekeeping force, park in front of a barricade near the village of Rudare, near the northern, Serb-controlled part of the breakaway city of Mitrovica. .
Italian KFOR troops, part of NATO’s peacekeeping force, park in front of a roadblock near the town of Rudare. [Visar Kryeziu/AP]

For more than 20 years, Kosovo has been a source of conflict between the West, which supported Serbia’s independence in 2008, and Russia, which does not recognize Pristina and has supported Serbia in its efforts to prevent Kosovo from being united. ‘to make global organizations including countries. United Nations.

However, the Kremlin has denied claims by Kosovo’s interior minister this week that Russia is influencing Serbia’s handling of ethnic conflicts to undermine Kosovo, saying Serbia is defending the rights of ethnic Serbs.

The estimated 50,000 Serbs living in the north of Kosovo, who they believe are still part of Serbia, resist any move they see as anti-Serb and refuse to accept the government in Pristina or the status quo. Kosovo is like a different country.

They have the support of many Serbs and Serbia and its authorities.

Kosovo’s Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in 2008, with the support of the West, following the 1998-99 war in which NATO intervened against Serbian forces to protect Albanian citizens.


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