Serbs dismantle barricades as Kosovo standoff eases

AFP
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Tanjug news agency reported that Serbia ended its three-day-old alert for its troops. Both sides appeared to be bowing to the United States and European Union pressure to end the growing confrontation .

“Diplomacy prevailed when de-escalating tensions were in north Kosovo. Josep Borrell, European Union’s chief of foreign policy, tweeted that violence cannot be solved.

He said that “urgent progress in dialogue” was still necessary to resolve the outstanding issues between Belgrade, Serbia and Pristina.

Nearly 50,000 Serbs who live in northern Kosovo are against the government in Pristina and the Kosovo status as a separate state. They are supported by many Serbs living in Serbia and its government.

In protest of the arrest by a former Serb officer, the latest peaks in the long-running conflict came when Serbs in Northern Kosovo began erecting roadblocks Dec. 10, in protest.

After the ex-policeman was released from detention and placed under house arrest, they agreed to dismantle the barricades.

Protesters began removing trucks from a Rudare barricade on Thursday afternoon, Reuters drone footage revealed. Serbian media reported that two more barricades were removed from the Gazivode lake in northern Kosovo.

After roadblocks on the Serbian side, the Kosovo police claimed that they had reopened Merdare crossing. This Merdare crossing is crucial for road freight and links the landlocked state to western European countries.

They appealed to diaspora people to use the crossing which was closed at midnight Tuesday to return home for the holidays.

However, tensions were high. Two trucks that had been completely destroyed stood near the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, which is a part of the ethnically divided region. Kosovo police stated that they were investigating an arson attack.

Since 10 December, two other crossings with Serbia, Kosovo’s northern border, have been closed.

After a 1998-1999 war, NATO intervened in order to protect the ethnic Albanian population.

KFOR, NATO’s peacekeeping force in Kosovo, expressed its appreciation for the removal of the barricades.

It stated that all parties should refrain from using rhetoric or taking actions that could lead to further escalation.

The conflict over Kosovo has been long-standing between the West, who backed its independence and Russia, that supports Serbia’s efforts to block Kosovo from joining global organisations, including the United Nations, has led to tension.

On Wednesday (28 December), the Kremlin dismissed allegations made by Kosovo’s interior Minister that Russia had influenced Serbia to destabilise Kosovo. It stated that Serbia was protecting the rights of ethnic Serbs.

Source : Eureporter