Over tensions between police and local groups that established barricades, the Kosovo government postponed the execution of a resolution that would require Serbs in the country’s north to apply for car license plates issued by Pristina authorities.

Protesters put trucks loaded with gravel and other heavy gear on highways leading to the two border crossings, Jarinje and Bernjak, in a territory dominated by Serbs. Kosovo police stated that the border crossings had to be closed.

“The overall security situation in the Northern municipalities of Kosovo is tense,” NATO-led mission to Kosovo KFOR said in a statement.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the increased tension on “groundless discriminatory rules” enforced by Kosovo authorities.

Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, around 50,000 Serbs in the north continue to use Serbian-issued license plates and documentation, refusing to acknowledge institutions under the capital, Pristina. More than 100 nations have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, but neither Serbia nor Russia have.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government announced a 60-day transition period for Serbs to obtain Kosovo license plates, a year after abandoning attempts to enforce them due to similar demonstrations.

The administration also decided that beginning Aug. 1, all nationals of Serbia visiting Kosovo will need to get an additional document at the border to gain entry.

Belgrade authorities apply a similar rule to Kosovars who visit Serbia.

Following tensions on Sunday evening and meetings with EU and US diplomats, the administration announced a one-month delay in implementation, beginning September 1.

Earlier on Sunday, police stated bullets were fired “in the direction of police units but fortunately no one was wounded”

It further claimed that irate protestors assaulted numerous Albanians who were driving on the blocked roads, and that some cars were attacked.

Air raid sirens could be heard for more than three hours in the little hamlet of North Mitrovica, which is mostly populated by Serbs.

Kosovo’s government sent special police troops and Belgrade flew fighter jets close to the border a year earlier, after local Serbs stopped the same routes over license plates.

Tensions between the two countries remain high, and a NATO mission with 3,770 troops on the ground is keeping Kosovo’s fragile peace. On Sunday, Italian peacekeepers were sighted in and around Mitrovica.

In 2013, the two countries agreed to participate in a discussion sponsored by the European Union in order to resolve unresolved difficulties, but little progress has been made.

Source: Reuters


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