Germany Urges Serbia and Kosovo to Resolve Border Dispute

Posted August 11th, 2011 at 1:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Germany's foreign minister has urged Serbia and Kosovo to quickly resolve their border dispute, saying that Serbia will not be allowed to ethnically partition Kosovo.

After meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci Thursday in Pristina, Guido Westerwelle said dialogue between the two sides is necessary, and he urged them to overcome ethnic tensions heightened by Kosovo's 2008 secession from Serbia. Kosovo's independence is recognized by 77 countries, but strongly opposed by Serbia.

Westerwelle stressed cooperation instead of confrontation, saying the time for wars and conflicts along ethnic lines must end in Europe. The German foreign minister said the future of European peace is at stake and that it is critical for both sides to respect the borders. As he put it, “the map of the region has been decided.”

The German foreign minister is the first top European official to visit Kosovo since violent clashes in the region last month.

Kosovo and Serbia have been locked in a border dispute following Kosovo's attempt to take control of two border crossings in the Serb-dominated north and enforce a ban on Serbian goods. Serb residents of northern Kosovo reacted by erecting barricades to prevent Kosovo police from taking over the crossings. An ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and several other people injured in ensuing clashes.

NATO peacekeepers intervened and took control of the border crossings under an agreement with the Kosovo government, which pulled out its special police. After the police withdrew, a mob of Serb attackers set fire to one border post and fired on NATO peacekeepers sent to quell the violence. The NATO forces will continue to man the crossing until talks between the two countries resume next month.