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 facet.
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 fast motion to unconditionally de-escalate the scenario, and to chorus from provocations, threats, or intimidation,” the joint EU and U.S. assertion mentioned.
The assertion mentioned the EU and the U.S. had been working with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti “to discover a political answer in an effort to defuse the tensions and agree on the best way ahead within the curiosity of stability, security, and well-being of all native communities.”
Serbian Protection Minister Milos Vucevic mentioned 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 difficulty.
“We’re all fearful concerning the scenario and the place all that is going…. Serbia is prepared for a deal,” Vucevic mentioned.
Northern Kosovo, the place ethnic Serbs are a majority, has been on edge since November, when tons 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 tons of of outraged ethnic Serbs to arrange roadblocks in northern Kosovo and paralyzed site visitors via 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 informed 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 organising barricades exist.
“On the similar time, rule of legislation should be revered, and any type of violence is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated,” the assertion mentioned.
It added that the US will help the EU’s work via its Rule of Legislation Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and mentioned the EU and the US “anticipate Kosovo and Serbia to return to fostering an setting conducive to reconciliation, regional stability, and cooperation for the good thing about their residents.”
The assertion additionally mentioned all obligations beneath the Brussels Settlement — the EU-facilitated dialogue to normalize Kosovo-Serbia relations — “should be absolutely applied immediately.”
The Merdare border crossing is Kosovo’s most necessary for highway freight, and its closure additionally creates further difficulties for Kosovars working overseas who’re returning residence for the vacations.
On December 26, two extra border crossings had been blocked by ethnic Serbs on the Kosovar facet amid an increase in reported shootings, the newest of which was occurred late on December 25, based on KFOR.
Solely three entry factors between the 2 international locations stay open.
KFOR mentioned in an announcement on December 28 that it “stays extraordinarily vigilant and has the aptitude and personnel to offer a protected and safe setting and freedom of motion for all communities beneath our UN mandate.”
KFOR additionally urged the safety forces of either side to proceed abiding by present agreements on troop actions.
On December 27, Kosovar Inside Minister Xhelal Svecla mentioned 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 mentioned it supported Belgrade.
“Serbia is a sovereign nation and it’s completely flawed to search for Russia’s damaging affect right here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned.
Kosovo, which has an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority, broke away from Serbia after a battle 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.