Kosovo, Serbia, NATO Reach Border Agreement

Posted August 5th, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Officials say Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement in connection with two disputed border crossings that were the scene of deadly violence last week in northern Kosovo.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Friday the two sides reached a deal that will allow NATO peacekeepers to remain at the two sites until mid-September, and would designate them military security zones.

Mr. Thaci added that Kosovo will maintain its trade embargo with Serbia, which triggered the crisis. Under the agreement, no commercial goods will move through the border crossings until Kosovo and Serbia resume talks next month.

Tensions in the region have eased after 10 days of turmoil sparked by an attempt by Kosovo's security forces to seize control of the two crossings on Serbia's border to enforce the ban. The international troops stepped in after one of the border crossings was set on fire and one ethnic Albanian police officer was killed in the ensuing clashes.

NATO began deploying additional forces to Kosovo on Wednesday after the commander of NATO forces in Kosovo, Erhard Buehler, asked for an additional 700 troops to help restore order in the region.

Also Wednesday, NATO troops guarding the border permitted entry to Serbian trucks carrying medical aid for the residents of northern Kosovo.

Mr. Thaci has said that his government will not give up on its drive to take control in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs are a majority. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia in 2008, against strong Serbian opposition.

More than 70 nations, including the United States and most European Union members, have recognized the Balkan state. But many, including China and Russia, have not and are blocking Kosovo bid to join the United Nations.