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The European Union and the US have expressed concern concerning the tense scenario within the north of Kosovo, the place authorities on December 28 closed down the principle border crossing with Serbia at Merdare after protesters arrange a roadblock on the Serbian aspect.

Merdare, on Kosovo’s japanese border, was blocked by a truck and tractors, media reported, amid escalating tensions between ethnic Serbs and the authorities in Pristina.

“We name on everybody to train most restraint, to take quick motion to unconditionally de-escalate the scenario, and to chorus from provocations, threats, or intimidation,” the joint EU and U.S. assertion stated.

The assertion stated the EU and the U.S. had been working with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti “to discover a political resolution with the intention to defuse the tensions and agree on the way in which ahead within the curiosity of stability, security, and well-being of all native communities.”

Serbian Protection Minister Milos Vucevic stated on December 28 that Belgrade was “prepared for a deal” however didn’t elaborate.

Vucevic described the roadblocks which were arrange as a “democratic and peaceable” technique of protest in feedback to state-controlled public broadcaster RTS, including that Serbia had “an open line of communication” with Western diplomats on resolving the problem.

“We’re all nervous concerning the scenario and the place all that is going…. Serbia is prepared for a deal,” Vucevic stated.

Northern Kosovo, the place ethnic Serbs are a majority, has been on edge since November, when lots of of ethnic Serb policemen, judges, and prosecutors walked off the job in protest at a choice by Pristina to ban the Belgrade-issued license plates inside Kosovo.

The coverage was scrapped by Pristina however the mass walkouts created a safety vacuum in Kosovo.

On December 28, Kosovar authorities sought to defuse tensions, saying the discharge of ethnic Serb ex-police officer Dejan Pantic, whose arrest on December 10 prompted lots of of outraged ethnic Serbs to arrange roadblocks in northern Kosovo and paralyzed visitors by way of two border crossings.

Pantic, who had been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in an assault on Central Election Fee officers, was to be positioned beneath home arrest, his lawyer advised RFE/RL.

The EU-U.S. joint assertion welcomed assurances from Kosovo that no lists of Kosovo Serb residents to be arrested or prosecuted for holding peaceable protests or establishing barricades exist.

“On the identical time, rule of regulation have to be revered, and any type of violence is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated,” the assertion stated.

It added that the US will assist the EU’s work by way of its Rule of Regulation Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and stated the EU and the US “anticipate Kosovo and Serbia to return to fostering an surroundings conducive to reconciliation, regional stability, and cooperation for the good thing about their residents.”

The assertion additionally stated all obligations beneath the Brussels Settlement — the EU-facilitated dialogue to normalize Kosovo-Serbia relations — “have to be totally applied at once.”

The Merdare border crossing is Kosovo’s most essential for highway freight, and its closure additionally creates extra difficulties for Kosovars working overseas who’re returning house for the vacations.

On December 26, two extra border crossings had been blocked by ethnic Serbs on the Kosovar aspect amid an increase in reported shootings, the most recent of which was occurred late on December 25, in response to KFOR.

Solely three entry factors between the 2 nations stay open.

KFOR stated in an announcement on December 28 that it “stays extraordinarily vigilant and has the aptitude and personnel to supply a secure and safe surroundings and freedom of motion for all communities beneath our UN mandate.”

KFOR additionally urged the safety forces of either side to proceed abiding by current agreements on troop actions.

On December 27, Kosovar Inside Minister Xhelal Svecla stated Serbia, beneath the affect of Russia, was aiming to destabilize Kosovo, an accusation rejected by Belgrade, which says it simply needs to guard its minority in Kosovo.

The Kremlin on December 28 additionally denied Kosovo’s accusations however stated it supported Belgrade.

“Serbia is a sovereign nation and it’s completely fallacious to search for Russia’s damaging affect right here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated.

Kosovo, which has an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority, broke away from Serbia after a conflict in 1998-99.

It declared independence in 2008, however Belgrade has by no means acknowledged it and encourages Kosovo’s 120,000 ethnic Serbs to defy the central Kosovar authorities’s authority.

With reporting by Reuters

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