Kosovo says will not accept NATO-Serbia deal

Last Updated: Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 12:27

Pristina: The NATO mission in Kosovo said on Wednesday that it had drafted an agreement with Serb representatives to move roadblocks in northern Kosovo, but the Pristina government said the deal was unacceptable.

NATO said all roadblocks would be removed and its soldiers would continue to control two border posts. Serb activists burned one of them last week and an ethnic Albanian policeman was shot dead.

"Roadblocks will be removed and freedom of movement will be re-established," a NATO statement said, adding that the agreement could be implemented in the days to come. Cars and trucks may pass after an identity check and a weapons search.

The Kosovo government said the agreement was unacceptable and would not be implemented.

"The government of Kosovo consider the draft agreement which was presented for opinion between KFOR general Erhard Buhler and Serb official (Borislav) Stefanovic as unacceptable," the government said in a press statement. KFOR is the NATO mission which has around 6,000 troops in Kosovo.

"The government of Kosovo will fully respect the reciprocity (trade) measures with Serbia."

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but the 60,000 Serbs living in northern Kosovo still consider Belgrade their capital.

Kosovo has banned all imports from Serbia and imposed a 10 percent tax on imports from Bosnia in retaliation for the two countries` three-year-old block on Kosovo`s exports.

Violence flared last week after Kosovo, which broke away from Belgrade in 2008, sent ethnic Albanian special police units to border posts that had been staffed mostly by ethnic Serbs to enforce the ban on imports from Serbia.

NATO sent its peacekeepers to quell the resulting three days of violence and decided on Tuesday to deploy a new battalion of troops, mainly from Germany and Austria.

Since the violence began, Serbs have blocked two main roads and have prevented NATO troops from reaching other peacekeepers at two border posts.

Serbia and Kosovo have held talks in Brussels to resolve the trade dispute, as part of an EU-mediated dialogue that aims to untangle a host of differences that make it difficult for Kosovo to function as a state.

The talks have made progress but diplomats say the latest round collapsed in July when Serbia rejected a compromise on customs stamps.

Some 90 percent of the people in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians, while a sizeable Serb minority lives in the north, near Serbia. The other Kosovo Serbs are scattered in enclaves throughout Kosovo.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999, when NATO waged a 78- day bombing campaign to end Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic`s ethnic cleansing and crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels.

Bureau Report



First Published: Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 12:27

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