Serb Leaders Defy NATO, Refuse to Dismantle Kosovo Roadblocks

Posted October 19th, 2011 at 12:20 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Leaders of four Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo have defied a NATO warning, and refused to unconditionally lift roadblocks to allow peacekeeping troops free movement in the region.

After a meeting in the city of Zubin Potok Wednesday, Serb leaders said they will only lift the roadblocks in a controlled manner to allow peacekeepers to deliver humanitarian supplies. NATO had demanded unconditional and permanent access to the border, saying its peacekeeping mission in Kosovo is preserving freedom of movement for people and communities. NATO has threatened to dismantle the barricades unless Wednesday's meeting brought positive results.

The Serbs said the barricades will not be taken down until ethnic Albanian customs officers and police are removed from two checkpoints in northern Kosovo. The Kosovo government deployed forces to the checkpoints in July to enforce a trade ban with Serbia. An attempt by Kosovo police to take down the barricades erupted in violence, resulting in the death of an ethnic-Albanian police officer.

About 40,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo, making up the majority in a number of towns. They refuse to recognize the authority of the government in Pristina, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade has urged Kosovo Serbs to find a compromise to the crisis, after the European Union made it clear Serbia cannot be considered for entry into the EU this year unless the situation in Kosovo improves.