Tension between Kosovo and Serbia decreased after the intervention of the European Union and the US

Members of the KFOR peacekeeping force patrol the area near the border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia in Jarinje, Kosovo. REUTERS/Laura Hasani (LAURA HASANI/)

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia calmed down on Monday after a night of uncertainty and protests by Kosovar Serbs over Pristina’s decision to ban Serbian identity documents and license plates on its territory.a measure that was ultimately postponed under international pressure.

Kosovo Serbs today removed roadblocks in the north of the former Serbian province, whose authorities had closed two border crossings with Serbia.

The Kosovar authorities intended to apply from midnight what they describe as a “reciprocity measure”as Serbia also does not accept identity documents and license plates from Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.

After hours of uncertainty, including some gunshots and anti-aircraft sirens, Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government backed down under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the US, announcing that it is postponing the application of the measures until September 1.

That announcement calmed the tension, although Persisted by the condition of Pristina to the Serbs to remove the barricades from the roads leading to the border crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje.

The Kosovar Minister of the Interior, Xhelal Svecla, assured that in other steps the prohibition of Serbian documents would be applied today.

“It will continue to apply until all the barricades are removed and the freedom of movement of citizens and goods is ensured”warned the Kosovo official.

According to local media, the Brnjak and Jarinje crossings, closed last night by the Kosovar police, were still closed in the afternoon, despite the fact that the Serbian barricades were removed.

Meanwhile, the EU today invited both parties to meet in Brussels to discuss the way forward, find solutions and prevent these tensions from reappearing againsaid Peter Stano, spokesman for the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.

The proposal came after Kosovo accepted “Borrell’s proposal and the United States‘ request to postpone the measures,” Stano told a news conference.

Belgrade and Pristina accuse each other of wanting to destabilize the region, while Russia, Serbia’s main ally, spoke of “provocations” by Kosovoassuring that what happened shows the “failure of EU mediation.”

Kurti, for his part, accused the Serbian leaders of engaging in politics “with intimidation” and assured that shots were fired at the Kosovar police last night, although no injuries were caused.

NATO soldiers greet a truck driver near the town of Zubin Potok on August 1, 2022. - Serbs in North Kosovo removed barricades on August 1 that closed two crossings along the border with Serbia after authorities in Pristina postponed the implementation of new travel measures that sparked tensions.  Trucks and barriers were being cleared from the roads, according to an AFP reporter, hours after a string of shootings and air raid sirens in northern Kosovo sent tensions soaring in the disputed territory home to both Serbs and ethnic Albanians.  (Photo by Armend NIMANI / AFP)
NATO soldiers greet a trucker near the town of Zubin Potok. (Photo by Armend NIMANI / AFP)

In Belgrade, the director of the Serbian Government Office for relations with Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, accused the Kosovar authorities of having fomented “a very serious crisis” and acknowledged that on Sunday night they were “on the verge of serious conflicts”.

“Last night we were one step away from serious conflicts. They planned to invade the north overnight to deal with the Serbs defending their gates, their right to survive and remain in (the autonomous province of) Kosovo and Metojia,” Belgrade’s name for the breakaway region of Kosovo, Petkovic explained. at a press conference, according to the agency Beta.

NATO’s KFOR force, with its almost 4,000 troops responsible for monitoring peace in Kosovo since 1999 with a UN mandateincreased its presence in the streets of the country.

In a statement, the force warned that it is ready to intervene if stability is threatened and that it will monitor the situation “carefully.”

As announced by Pristina in June, people entering Kosovo with identity cards issued by Serbia will receive a temporary Kosovar document, valid for 90 days.

In addition, car license plates issued by Serbia for Kosovar cities with a Serb majority will have to be replaced by official Kosovo ones.

A similar decision already generated a first crisis in September 2021 that implied that the two countries increased their security forces on the common border.

The former Serbian province of Kosovo, populated by an Albanian majority, proclaimed its independence in 2008which Serbia does not recognize, and which has been supported by the US and most of the EU partners, but not by Russia, China, India, Brazil or Spain, among others.

Serbia has been negotiating its entry into the EU for years, although without significant progress, while Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans whose citizens need a visa to travel to EU countries.

(With information from EFE and Europa Press)

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