NATO-led mission at Kosovo-Serbia border after deal to ease tensions

The NATO-led Kosovo Force Mission took over the area near two Kosovo-Serbian border crossings on Saturday after the two countries reached an …

The NATO-led Kosovo Force Mission took over the area near two Kosovo-Serbian border crossings on Saturday after the two countries reached an agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions sparked by a dispute over vehicle license plates.

Earlier this week, EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak succeeded in convincing representatives from Kosovo and Serbia to let KFOR troops take over the areas for the next two weeks.

Ethnic Serbs took trucks with which they had blocked the road to the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings, while Kosovar special police units also left.

Police forces were deployed two weeks ago to enact a new rule on removing Serb license plates from cars entering the country, saying a decade-old deal had expired.

Pristina said they were repeating what Serbia had done for the past decade.

Tensions ran high Monday, Sept. 20, and then Serbian military jets and helicopters flew in an apparent show of force near the border with Kosovo.

“Starting this weekend and for the next two weeks, KFOR will maintain a temporary robust and agile presence in the region,” a KFOR statement said.

“The agreement we reached was worthwhile, it would have a positive impact not only for Kosovo but also for the region. And it will pave the way to a sustainable solution that will completely remove the existing obstacles to freedom of movement,” said Bislim Bislimi, Kosovo’s deputy prime minister.

“Paradoxically, we are the only two countries that have special arrangements for freedom of movement that have nothing to do with European standards and best practices, which should be our main orientation on our EU path.”

KFOR, with about 4,000 troops from 28 countries, is led by NATO but supported by the United Nations, the European Union and others.

Its goal is to avert ongoing ethnic tensions between the majority Kosovo Albanians and the minority Kosovo Serbs following Kosovo’s secession and independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia, backed by its allies Russia and China, does not recognize the statehood of its former province, which is recognized by the United States and most of the West.

EU-backed negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade began in 2011 and have produced more than 30 agreements that are either not being honored at all or are insufficiently honored.

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