NATO-led mission increases patrols on Kosovo-Serbia border
PRISTINA (AP) — Monday’s patrols were increased by the NATO-led KFOR force in Kosovo to reduce tensions between the Balkan foes due to a dispute over license plates. The
KFOR is a group of around 4 ,000 soldiers from 28 nations. It is led by NATO, but is also supported by the United Nations and other international organizations. Its purpose is to end ethnic tensions between the majority Kosovo Albanians, and the minority Kosovo Serbs. This was after Kosovo split from Serbia in 2008.. The force released a statement saying that
“KFOR had increased patrolling time and frequency all over Kosovo, including the northern part.
This move comes after Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic threatened NATO that Serbia would intervene in Kosovo if the Serbs are seriously endangered.
The license plate dispute between the two neighboring countries is not about plates, but about respecting each country’s sovereignty. This has a great symbolic power. Serbia, together with its allies Russia, China and China refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence, as the United States and other Western countries have done. It considers the Kosovo-Serbia border temporary. Since Kosovo’s decision to follow Serbia and take Serb license plates off cars entering the country,
Kosovo Serbs block the border with trucks. Temporary plates must be purchased by drivers. Serbia takes the Kosovo plates off cars entering.
The U.S. Embassy in Serbia tweeted that American and Canadian defense officials had visited the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings, the site of the protests, “to gain a better understanding of the situation.”
“They were glad to note KFOR was on site as a stabilizing factor,” the U.S. Embassy tweeted.
A U.S. Embassy official in Kosovo said that representatives from Serbia and Kosovo had agreed to meet in Brussels next week. The meeting will be attended by Gabriel Escobar, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.
The official said if the issues between Kosovo and Serbia are left unresolved they will hamper foreign investment and speed up brain drain, preventing the economies of both countries “from reaching their true potential.”
KFOR commander Gen-Maj. Franco Federici said besides the increased patrols, “KFOR has also conducted talks with all parties involved with the cessation of protests in northern Kosovo.”
Serbia raised its military alert last week, and Serbian military jets and helicopters were flying close to the border with Kosovo in an apparent show of force.
Last week, Kosovo government officials claimed that a public building was set ablaze and another was attacked with grenades as a result of protests by ethnic Serbs.
On Monday Albin Kurti, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, reiterated his offer to both countries that they drop the temporary license plates rule.
Vucic described Kosovo’s recent license-plate move as “criminal,” and made the EU-mediated negotiations conditional on the withdrawal of all Kosovar police at the border. The EU, NATO, and the U.S. have asked Kosovo and Serbia not to take unilateral steps and urge restraint.
Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. This report was contributed by Dusan Stojanovic from Belgrade (Serbia).