August 14, 2022

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Serbian troops on heightened alert at Kosovo border

Government in Belgrade accuses neighbouring Kosovo of ‘provocations’ by sending particular police items to frame.

Serbian troops have been on a heightened state of alert after the federal government in Belgrade accused neighbouring Kosovo of “provocations” by sending particular police items to the border.

Already tense relations between Serbia and its former breakaway area have grown worse for the reason that ethnic Albanian-led authorities there despatched the police items to an space primarily populated by minority ethnic Serbs, who reject the authority of the federal government in Kosovo’s capital Pristina.

The deployment got here as tons of of ethnic Serbs have staged day by day protests towards a call to require drivers with Serbian registration plates to placed on momentary ones when getting into Kosovo – a “reciprocal measure”, in keeping with Pristina.

“No one here wants a conflict and I hope there won’t be one,” stated a 45-year-old protester who recognized himself as Ljubo and was camped on the Jarinje border crossing.

“We want Pristina to withdraw its forces and cancel the decision on licence plates.”

Hundreds of Serbs in Kosovo have been protesting and blocking site visitors with vehicles on the roads main to 2 border crossings.

Kosovo particular police stands as tons of of Kosovo Serbs protest towards a authorities ban on entry of autos with Serbian registration plates in Jarinje, Kosovo [Laura Hasani/Reuters]

“After the provocations by the [special police] units … Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave the order to heighten the alert for some Serbian army and police units,” the defence ministry in Belgrade stated in an announcement.

Serbian fighter jets might once more be seen flying over the border area on Sunday after a number of sorties on Saturday, AFP information company reported.

Diplomatic stress

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell urged Serbia and Kosovo to scale back tensions “by immediately withdrawing special police units and dismantling of roadblocks”.

“Any further provocations or unilateral and uncoordinated actions are unacceptable,” he stated in an announcement.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated he had spoken by telephone to the Serbian president and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

“It’s vital both Belgrade and Pristina show restraint and return to dialogue,” he tweeted.

NATO troops have been deployed in Kosovo for the reason that 1998-99 Serbian-Kosovar battle.

Belgrade doesn’t recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 and sees Pristina’s choice on the licence plates as implying its standing as a sovereign state.

Vucic deplored the shortage of response from the worldwide group to “the total occupation for more than a week of northern Kosovo by Pristina’s armoured vehicles”.

“And everyone is suddenly worried when Serbian helicopters and planes are seen over central Serbia,” Vucic stated in an announcement, including, nonetheless, that Serbia “will always behave responsibly and seriously”.

Kurti on Saturday accused Serbia of desirous to “provoke a serious international conflict“.

Early on Sunday, Serbian Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic visited troops at two army bases the place they’re on alert, together with one that’s just some kilometres from the border.

Belgrade designates border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo as “administrative”.

Serbian ally Russia additionally doesn’t recognise Kosovo’s independence, however most Western international locations do, together with the United States.

For its half, NATO member Albania, “concerned by the escalation of the situation”, has requested Belgrade “to withdraw the armed forces deployed on the border with Kosovo”.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani minimize quick a go to to New York for the United Nations General Assembly “because of developments in the north of the country”.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence got here a decade after a struggle between ethnic Albanian fighters and Serbian forces that killed 13,000 folks, principally ethnic Albanians.

The United States and the European Union have known as for a de-escalation of tensions and for the 2 sides to return to normalisation talks, which the EU has mediated for a few decade.

The Serbian president stated the normalisation course of can resume provided that Kosovo withdraws the particular police forces from the north.

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