December 9, 2022

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Escalation of tensions in Kosovo. NATO announces the intensification of patrols

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced on Monday that it has intensified its patrols in Kosovo, after an escalation of tensions in the north of the territory on the border with Serbia, which sent armored vehicles near its former province, reports France Presse.

The international community, led by the European Union, launched a call for “de-escalation” and “dialogue” in the face of this new crisis between Kosovo and Serbia, which has never recognized the self-proclaimed independence in 2008 of this territory inhabited by a majority of ethnic Albanians.

Already difficult relations between the two neighbors were further complicated a week ago, when the Kosovo government sent special police units to the north, a region populated by a majority of ethnic Serbs who do not recognize power in Pristina.

Accusing Pristina of “provocation”, Belgrade raised the alert level of its army in the border area. According to an AFP correspondent in the area, Serbia deployed four armored vehicles 2 km from a border post on Monday, while its fighter jets flew over an area near the border for the first time since the bloody war between Serbian forces and Albanian separatists. (1998-1999).

On Monday, the situation at the border between Serbia and Kosovo was calm, despite these military movements, AFP notes.

Special Kosovar units were deployed to oversee Pristina’s decision to compel Serbian vehicles to display temporary Kosovar license plates upon entering Kosovo. Pristina invokes a measure of ‘reciprocity’, vehicles registered “Republic of Kosovo” – unrecognized by Belgrade – have been obliged for years to display temporary Serbian license plates to enter Serbia, according to Agerpres.

Angry, hundreds of Serbs protest every day, blocking with trucks the roads leading to the two border crossing points in the north, Jarinje and Brnjak.

Two Kosovo vehicle registration offices were targeted by attacks over the weekend, and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Serbia of wanting to ‘provoke a conflict’.

Since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign ended the conflict, Kosovo has been under the international protection of KFOR.

This NATO force announced on Monday, in a statement, that it “increased the number and duration of its routine patrols throughout Kosovo, including in the north”, reminding that its mission is to ensure security and freedom of movement.

For several days, KFOR helicopters regularly fly over the border region.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, visiting Kosovo, described Belgrade’s actions as “theatrical military maneuvers”, declaring himself convinced that “dialogue is the only solution”.

While the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is expected this week in the Balkans, Brussels invited the parties to dialogue on Monday.

“It is important that the parties sit down together, put an end to the verbal escalation in the region and quickly find a solution,” said Dana Spinant, spokeswoman for the Commission.

“A lot of diplomatic activities are taking place both in Brussels and on the ground,” added Peter Stano, spokesman for the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, expressing hope for a meeting of negotiators from both sides. soon in Brussels.

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