Belgrade urges Kosovo Serbs to accept border deal

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Serbia’s top negotiator on Sunday called on ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo to accept an EU-brokered agreement on disputed border crossings after local officials expressed disappointment with the deal.
Belgrade, SERBIA – Sunday, December 4, 2011 / AFP
“It is high time that they understand that this is the best deal possible under the circumstances,” Serbian government official Borko Stefanovic told a press conference.
“It does not imply a recognition of Kosovo and it would be good if the (Serb) citizens of northern Kosovo would stand behind their state (Serbia) at this moment.”
The European Union announced Friday the deal between officials from Serbia and Kosovo on the management of the two disputed border crossings following three days of marathon talks.
The EU said the agreement, seen as crucial to Serbia’s bid to join the bloc, was a vital step in reducing tension on the north Kosovo border, after a wave of clashes left scores of people injured, including NATO peacekeepers.
The unrest erupted when members of northern Kosovo’s majority ethnic Serbs set up barricades to block roads to the frontier after Pristina sent in ethnic Albanian customs officials to man the border posts.
Belgrade refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo, declared in 2008 and recognised by the United States, much of the EU and many other states.
But Stefanovic said: “From now on a great responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Serb leaders in northern Kosovo who should approach this issue in a rational way and with wisdom”.
But Serbs in northern Kosovo reacted with disappointment to the deal, which will see the disputed posts jointly manned by Kosovo and Serb officials supervised by the EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
“I am disappointed. I think that representatives of institutions in Pristina should in no way be allowed to set up in northern Kosovo,” said Krstimir Pantic, mayor of the town of Kosovska Mitrovica near the border.
“I think the people on the barricades won’t allow it,” he told AFP, saying there would be consultations with the local people and a joint meeting of city councils in northern Kosovo.
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