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October 17 2021 6:03 AM ˚

Tensions high as Serbia deploys armored vehicles at Kosovo border

3. Serbia Kosovo
Kosovo police special unit secure the area near the Jarinje border crossing on September 20, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
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JARINJE, Kosovo — Tensions were high on Monday at the border between Kosovo and Serbia as Belgrade deployed four armored vehicles close to the frontier, an AFP correspondent saw.اضافة اعلان

Already tense relations between Serbia and its former ethnic-Albanian majority province have grown worse since the government in Kosovo dispatched special police units to the north a week ago, an area mainly populated by ethnic Serbs who reject the authority of Pristina.

The move, which angered the Serbs, came after Pristina decided to require drivers with Serbian registration plates to put on temporary ones when entering Kosovo.

Furious with the decision, hundreds of ethnic Serbs, many of whom have Serbian number plates, staged daily protests and blocked the traffic at Kosovo’s two northern border crossings with Serbia.

On Monday, the Serbian army deployed four armored vehicles just 2km from the Jarinje crossing, according to the AFP correspondent.

The Serbian state-run RTS television broadcast footage of the vehicles, as well as Serbian soldiers, deployed close to the border.

The country’s defense ministry accused Kosovo of “provocations” at the weekend, and Serbian fighter jets flew over the border region.

Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic also visited troops at two military bases by the Kosovo border.

Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Kosovo on Monday and labeled Serbia’s latest moves “theatrical military maneuvers.”

After a meeting with his Kosovo counterpart Albin Kurti, Rama told reporters that the “only solution is a dialogue.”

But he stressed Albania’s position remained “unchanged” from the first moment since this row has emerged.

Serbia argues that Kosovo’s decision to mandate temporary plates implies its status as an independent nation, which Belgrade does not recognize.

But Pristina replies that it is only about reciprocity as Kosovo’s plates are
banned in Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after a war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces.

Serbian ally Russia also does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, but most Western countries do, including the US.

Washington and Brussels have called for a de-escalation of the latest tensions and for the two sides to return to normalization talks, which the European Union has mediated for about a decade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the normalization process can resume only if Kosovo withdraws the special police forces from the ethnic Serb-populated north. 


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