Kosovo: Border crossing tension continues after clashes

For more than three months, Serbs have been blocking main roads in northern Kosovo to stop the country’s ethnic Albanian leadership from extending their control over parts of Kosovo. The...
For more than three months, Serbs have been blocking main roads in northern Kosovo to stop the country’s ethnic Albanian leadership from extending their control over parts of Kosovo. The situation in northern Kosovo  remain tense on Tuesday, after a day of violence during which 23 NATO soldiers and over thirty Serbs were injured in clashes in northern village of Jagnjenica on Monday.

Belgrade, Serbia / Pristina, Kosovo – Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Serbian president Boris Tadic and his Kosovo counterpart Atifete Jahjaga condemned the clashes and appealed for calm, saying dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was the only way for peaceful solution.

The violence broke out as NATO soldiers stationed in Kosovo (KFOR) removed a roadblock in Jagnjenica, set up by local Serbs in protest over the placing of Kosovo police and customs at two northern border crossings, Brnjak and Jarinje.

Belgrade opposes Kosovo independence, declared by majority Albanians in 2008. Kosovo’s minority Serbs, who make majority population in the north, have been blocking roads for over four months. “I call on KFOR officials, EULEX (European Union mission) and Serb political representatives to calm the situation immediately and to secure complete freedom of movement strictly through dialogue and without violence,” Tadic said in a statement.

He called on local Serbs to prevent “extremists” in their ranks, who “threaten the security of our citizens and international officials in Kosovo. The lives of our citizens and representatives of international institutions must be saved at all costs,” he added.

Appealing for calm, Jahjaga called on Belgrade to “stop rendering support to criminal structures” in northern Kosovo and said “criminals who attacked KFOR soldiers should be discovered and punished”. KFOR said in a statement late on Monday, 23 of its soldiers were injured in day-long clashes. “The protestors could not be called as peaceful demonstrators at all, but as violent and criminal,” it said.

KFOR used teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons against protesting Serbs on Monday. But it warned that “in life threatening situations like this KFOR soldiers will respond with all proportionate means”.

Despite cold, local Serbs spent the night manning barricades, warmed by bon fires, as KFOR soldiers in full riot gear stood by. Local Serb leaders are due to meet with KFOR representatives later today in an effort to resolve the crisis.

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 following a 78-day NATO bombardment to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces in a two-year counter-insurgency war. More than 80 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union, have recognized the new country.

Vudi Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist, editor and photographer. He is focusing on the issues of the domestic politics of Kosovo, Foreign Policy of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the Middle East. Xhymshiti is also focused on the issues of the politics of race, gender, identity, migration as well as displacement of people due to climate change and armed conflicts. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde etc. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic and founder of THE Frontliner.

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