Germany urged Serbia on Monday to stop supporting ethnic kin in Kosovo and seek talks with its ethnic Albanian-led government after roads were blocked and NATO troops attacked by Serbs in the largely lawless north of the tiny country.
Pristina, KOSOVO – Monday, December 19, 2011 by Vedat Xhymshiti
“There is a need to have solutions for free trade and border cooperation and we are not interested in having parallel (Serb) structures in Kosovo,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after talks with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, in Pristina International Airport.
“(In northern Kosovo) we need to find smart ways of dealing with each other, joint border controls can be such a way,” Merkel said during a snap visit to the territory to meet prime minister Hashim Thaci and German troops serving with the NATO-led KFOR force there.
“We made clear in direct talks with Serbia what we want, the need to come to a regulation of the traffic of goods which is currently not possible because of the barricades,” Merkel said.
Two weeks ago EU leaders delayed a decision on whether to grant Serbia candidacy status until March. Germany especially stressed that Belgrade needs to improve its relations with Kosovo before it can become a candidate to join the bloc.
For more than five 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.
In EU sponsored talks, Belgrade and Pristina delegations reached a last minute agreement late on Friday on joint management of border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo, whose majority Albanians declared independence in 2008.
Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs oppose Kosovo independence, but Serbian officials agreed to “integrated border control” to be manned by Serbian and Kosovo police and customs and European Union mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
Thirty German and Austrian soldiers were injured earlier this month when hundreds of Serbs resisted an attempt by NATO to remove roadblocks they had put up in the north. The violence prompted the European Union on December 9 to shelve Serbia’s bid for the status of candidate for EU membership.
Germany has the biggest military contingent in Kosovo, with some 1,800 soldiers serving in NATO’s peacekeeping mission in the former Serbian province. The NATO commander there is German.
Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian and declared independence from Belgrade in 2008. Serbia refuses to recognize it and Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs, who dominate in a small slice of the north, continue to function as part of Serbia.
Troubles started in July when Kosovo sent special police units to the northern border to enforce a trade ban with Serbia but were turned back by armed Serbs. Then NATO troops, mainly German soldiers, intervened to try to calm the situation.
The row with Kosovo cost Serbia its EU candidate status. EU leaders assessed that Serbia had not done enough to improve relations with its former province.
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