Serbia Warns Kosovo Against Attempts to Control Disputed Border Crossings

Posted September 13th, 2011 at 12:56 pm (UTC-5)
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Serbian President Boris Tadic has warned that attempts by Kosovo to take over two disputed border outposts in the Serb-populated north could reignite tensions in the region.

Authorities in Pristina announced plans to deploy customs officials to the disputed posts. But Mr. Tadic says Serbia, which has refused to acknowledge Kosovo's independence, will do what it has to do prevent Kosovo from taking control of the outposts.

Mr. Tadic has urged the international community to stop the deployment, and said the dispute should continue to be mediated by the European Union. But Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci insists that Kosovo should establish control over the northern boundary.

Kosovo and Serbia reached economic agreements in EU-mediated talks earlier this month in Brussels. The agreements call for Serbia to recognize customs stamps marked “Kosovo Customs,” a move designed to facilitate trade and allow both states to lift embargoes on each other's goods.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO bombing ended a Serbian military crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians. But tens of thousands of Serbs living in northern Kosovo do not recognize Pristina's authority and want to be governed by Belgrade.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared in July when Kosovo's majority ethnic-Albanian government sent special police units to take control of northern border crossings, part of an effort to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia.

One policeman was killed and several other people were wounded in an exchange of gunfire between the two sides.

The ban was in retaliation for Serbia's blocking of Kosovo's exports.