Monday, January 17, 2022

Kosovo deploys police, Serb protests amid border tensions

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Tensions on the border between Kosovo and Serbia escalated on Monday as Kosovo deployed additional police to enforce a rule requiring the removal of Serbian license plates from cars entering Kosovo.

Kosovo Special Police with armored vehicles were sent to the border as hundreds of Kosovo Serbs reportedly drove to the border in their cars to protest the move, blocking one of the crossing points in protest.

Serbia’s police have been removing registration plates from Kosovo-registered cars entering Serbia for years, and the latest move by Kosovo authorities appears to be a tit-for-tat move.

Serbia does not recognize its former province of Kosovo as a separate state and treats the mutual border only as an “administrative” and temporary border.

Authorities in Kosovo said that by Monday, license plates issued in Serbia would be replaced with temporary ones and that additional police had been deployed to enforce “reciprocity” actions.

The two sides agreed to allow free traffic in EU-mediated talks in 2014. However, Kosovo officials said the deal has ended and only appropriate Kosovo symbols are now valid in the region.

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called an emergency meeting of the state National Security Council on Tuesday as local Serb officials in Kosovo urged Belgrade for help.

Describing the latest move as “a direct threat” against Serbs living in Kosovo, the top Kosovo Serb official, Goran Raki, said he has informed EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak and other international officials about the new development.

“This (protest) is a response to those who are worried about their future, their children and their families,” Rakik said. “People are worried and afraid.”

The bloody 1998–1999 crackdown by Serbian troops against Kosovo Albanian separatists left thousands dead and more than a million homeless. The war ended only after the intervention of NATO.


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