Kosovo delays measure stirring tensions with minority Serbs

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s authorities early Monday moved to ease mounting ethnic tensions within the nation by delaying a controversial order on automobile license plates and identification playing cards that triggered riots by minority Serbs who put up roadblocks, sounded air raid sirens and fired their weapons into the air.

The Kosovo authorities accused neighboring Serbia of instigating the riots with a purpose to destabilize the nation that declared independence in 2008 after a NATO intervention that stopped Serbia’s bloody crackdown towards ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

Officers in Kosovo had earlier determined that as of Aug. 1 they’d resume the follow of requiring autos that enter from Serbia to interchange Serbia license plates with Kosovo ones. For the previous 11 years, the reverse was required by Serbia for autos driving from Kosovo that transit via Serbia.

Kosovo is also planning to dam its ethnic Serb minority from solely utilizing Serbian identification playing cards when crossing the border, the identical strategy that Serbia makes use of for Kosovar residents.

After discussions with European and U.S. companions, the “reciprocity” license plate and identification card plan was being postponed for a month, till Sept. 1, the Kosovo authorities stated.

EU International Coverage chief Josep Borrell stated he welcomed the transfer, including that he anticipated all roadblocks “to be removed immediately.”

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated Kosovar authorities would implement the choice as soon as barricades within the north have been eliminated. He added that it took solely 20 seconds for 1,501 Serb residents to enter Kosovo by noon utilizing the entry-exit doc, versus an hour’s look forward to Kosovar residents to enter Serbia.

A Kosovo authorities assertion stated that many “aggressive acts” like blocking roads and shot-firing within the northern areas dominated by ethnic Serbs passed off on Sunday and accused Serbia of inciting them.

Kosovo was a part of Serbia till an armed rebellion in 1998-1999 by the territory’s ethnic Albanian majority triggered a bloody crackdown by Serbs. A NATO bombing marketing campaign to pressure Serbia’s troops out of Kosovo ended the conflict. However Serbia refuses to acknowledge Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

European Fee spokesman Peter Stano stated the EU was following developments “very closely and with concern” and that each events have been invited to Brussels “to sit down and talk in the framework of the EU facilitated dialog.”

Kurti and President Vjosa Osmani blamed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for the most recent protests.

“Vucic and (Petar) Petkovic are the main responsible persons for the riots,” Kurti wrote in Fb. Petkovic is Belgrade’s official accountable for Kosovo.

Osmani additionally wrote on Fb that “Vucic’s efforts to destabilize Kosovo” would fail.

Vucic responded by saying that “we’ve never been in a more complex situation than today” and blamed Kosovo for the escalating tensions over the licenses plates and ID playing cards.

He accused Kosovo of attempting to make itself the sufferer and “taking advantage of the mood in the world where they think they can play cards,” he stated, including that Kurti is attempting to be seen in the identical mild as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Vucic stated Kosovo can’t cease its ethnic Serbs from utilizing Serbian identification playing cards after they cross the border. He later visited Serbian Military headquarters in Belgrade in what was seen as a thinly veiled warning that each one choices – together with army motion – have been on the desk.

Serbian ally Russia denounced the Kosovo authorities, saying the most recent measures have been meant to chase the remaining Serbs out of Kosovo. There are fears within the West that Russia might use Serbia to destabilize the Balkans and thus shift a minimum of some consideration from its conflict in Ukraine.

The NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo stated it was monitoring the “tense” scenario in northern Kosovo and was “prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardized.”

The pressure stated it could “take whatever measures are necessary to keep a safe and secure environment in Kosovo at all times, in line with its UN mandate.”

The mission, which has some 3,800 troopers from 28 international locations, is led by NATO however is supported by the United Nations, the European Union and others.

German Protection Minister Christine Lambrecht hailed the Kosovar authorities’s choice as “contributing to easing tensions.”

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. AP author Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia, Lorne Cook dinner from Brussels and Kirsten Grieshaber from Berlin.

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