Tensions rise in northern Kosovo, NATO mission says it is ‘ready to intervene’ in case of instability

Tensions rise in northern Kosovo, NATO mission says it is ‘ready to intervene’ in case of instability

Kosovan police said on Sunday they came under fire in the north of the country, where barricades have been erected on roads leading to Serbia in protest at the government’s border policy.

NATO’s Mission in Kosovo (KFOR) said in a press release published on Sunday it was “ready to intervene if stability is threatened” in northern Kosovo, where tensions have been identified in recent hours. “Our mission is fully focused on the day-to-day implementation of its UN mandate to ensure a safe environment and freedom of movement for all residents of Kosovo,” the document added, speaking of a “tense overall security situation.” in the communities in the north of the country.

Kosovan police said on Sunday they came under fire in the north of the country, where barricades have been erected on roads leading to Serbia in protest at the government’s border policy. The shots caused no injuries, police said in a statement. Both intersections were closed to traffic. On Sunday evening, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs pushed trucks, tankers and other heavy vehicles onto the roads leading to the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings, an AFP journalist noted. A crowd then settled around the barricades with the stated intention of spending the night there. Air raid sirens rang out for more than three hours in the small town of North Mitrovica, which is mainly inhabited by Serbs.

Similar tensions in 2021

As of Monday, anyone entering Kosovo with a Serbian identity card must replace it with a temporary document during their stay in the country, according to a decision by the Pristina government. In addition, Kosovo Serbs whose vehicles bear plates issued in Serbia must replace them with plates of the Republic of Kosovo within two months.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti clarified on Sunday that this is a reciprocal measure in that Serbia, which does not recognize the independence of its former Albanian-majority province, which was proclaimed in 2008, also requires Kosovars entering its territory to do so. The Serbs of Kosovo do not recognize either Pristina’s authority or Kosovo’s independence and remain loyal to Belgrade, on which they are financially dependent.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an address to the nation on Sunday that the situation in Kosovo “has never been so complicated” for Serbia and the Serbs living there. “The atmosphere is boiling,” said Vucic, adding that “Serbia will win” if the Serbs are attacked. For his part, Albin Kurti accused Mr. Vucic of causing “disorders”. “The next few hours, days and weeks can be difficult and problematic,” wrote the Kosovar President on Facebook.

Last September, northern Kosovo was the scene of intense tensions after Pristina decided to ban Serb license plates on its territory, punctuated by daily demonstrations and traffic blockades at the two border posts. Tensions between the two countries are now at their highest level in years, and the fragile peace in Kosovo is being maintained by a NATO mission that has 3,770 troops on the ground. Italian blue helmets were also seen in Mitrovica and the surrounding area on Sunday. The two countries participated in a European Union-sponsored dialogue in 2013 to try to resolve outstanding issues, but little progress was made.