Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Kosovo, Serbia sign agreement to end border tensions

Kosovo on Thursday agreed to withdraw police units from its northern border with Serbia to end a growing dispute over vehicle license plates, which briefly turned into violence and urged NATO to increase its patrols. inspired to.

The agreement in Brussels calms the latest flare-up in the decades-old standoff between Serbia and Kosovo, but does not solve a major issue blocking EU membership talks: Pristina’s 2008 independence for Serbia and its former province of Kosovo. After that relations should normalize.

“We have a deal,” said Miroslav Lajcek, the EU envoy dealing with one of Europe’s toughest territorial disputes. “After two days of intense negotiations, an agreement has been reached on de-escalation and the way forward,” he said on Twitter, where he posted the details.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar was in Brussels to show support for EU-led talks, saying further progress is likely in the Balkans.

Escobar said on a briefing call with reporters, “I think we can make great progress to help the Balkans recover from a very difficult period during the 90s and hopefully eventually with the European Union.” become more integrated.”

However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic downplayed hopes of any sweeping success for now. Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo.

“I think the agreement is fair to the citizens. I want us to be able to find a more permanent solution. It will not include recognition of Kosovo,” Vucic said at a news conference in Serbia, where he is the president of the European Commission. Ursula Vaughan was hosting. Der Leyen.

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special stickers

Under the agreement, NATO troops will replace Kosovar police units on the border, which will return from Saturday. From Monday, the two countries will put up special stickers on car license plates to remove the national symbols and allow free movement of citizens.

NATO has some 5,000 troops in Kosovo under a UN mandate since June 1999, overseeing a fragile peace following a US-led bombing campaign to end ethnic conflict.

The new agreement ends a ban instigated by Kosovo for all drivers in Serbia to show a temporary, printed registration. Pristina said her move was in retaliation for measures implemented in Serbia against Kosovo drivers since 2008.

Lajcek said he is working on a long-term solution.

Diplomats said the confrontation was a reminder to the wider world of the larger Kosovo-Serbia dispute that the EU had to resolve. A senior diplomat in Brussels said the latest flare-up was, in part, an attempt to draw attention to Brussels because the process of EU membership has stalled.

Ahead of the October 6 Balkan-EU summit in Slovenia, Reuters reported on Tuesday that 27 member states have so far agreed to a declaration reaffirming their 18-year-old pledge of future EU membership for the Western Balkan states. have been unable to.

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