Serbian troops on heightened alert at border with Kosovo

Published September 27, 2021
Kosovo special police officers are pictured as hundreds of Kosovo Serbs protest against a government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian registration plates in Jarinje, Kosovo, September 21. — Reuters
Kosovo special police officers are pictured as hundreds of Kosovo Serbs protest against a government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian registration plates in Jarinje, Kosovo, September 21. — Reuters

BELGRADE: Serbian troops were on a heightened state of alert on Sunday after the government in Belgrade accused neighbouring Kosovo of “provocations” by sending special police units to the border.

Already tense relations between Serbia and its former breakaway region have grown worse since the ethnic Albanian-led government there on Monday dispatched the police units to an area mainly populated by minority ethnic Serbs, who reject the authority of the government in Kosovo’s capital Pristina.

The deployment came as hundreds of ethnic Serbs have staged daily protests against a decision to require drivers with Serbian registration plates to put on temporary ones when entering Kosovo — a “reciprocal measure”, according to Pristina.

“No one here wants a conflict and I hope there won’t be one,” said a 45-year-old protester who identified himself as Ljubo and was camped at the Jarinje border crossing.

“We want Pristina to withdraw its forces and cancel the decision on licence plates.” Hundreds of Serbs in Kosovo have been protesting and blocking traffic with trucks on the roads leading to two border crossings.

“After the provocations by the (special police) units... Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave the order to heighten the alert for some Serbian army and police units,” the defence ministry in Belgrade said in a statement.

Serbian fighter jets could again be seen overflying the border region on Sunday after several sorties on Saturday, a correspondent reported.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell urged Serbia and Kosovo to reduce tensions “by immediately withdrawing special police units and dismantling of roadblocks”.

“Any further provocations or unilateral and uncoordinated actions are unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken by phone to the Serbian president and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

“It’s vital both Belgrade and Pristina show restraint and return to dialogue”, he tweeted. Nato troops have been deployed in Kosovo since the 1998-99 Serbian-Kosovar conflict.

Belgrade does not recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 and sees Pristina’s decision on the licence plates as implying its status as a sovereign state.

The Serbian head of state, Aleksandar Vucic, deplored the lack of reaction from the international community to “the total occupation for more than a week of northern Kosovo by Pristina’s armoured vehicles”.

“And everyone is suddenly worried when Serbian helicopters and planes are seen over central Serbia,” Vucic said in a statement, adding, however, that Serbia “will always behave responsibly and seriously”.

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Saturday accused Serbia of wanting to “provoke a serious international conflict”.

Early on Sunday, Serbian Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic visited troops at two military bases where they are on alert, including one that is just a few kilometres (miles) from the border. Belgrade designates border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo as “administrative”.

Serbian ally Russia also does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, but most Western countries do, including the United States.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2021

Opinion

Lull before the storm
Updated 24 Oct 2021

Lull before the storm

It does not take rocket science to figure out why each of the two sides is taking the stand it is.
The larger debate
Updated 23 Oct 2021

The larger debate

The revelations show how the economy promotes inequality.

Editorial

Anti-government rallies
Updated 24 Oct 2021

Anti-government rallies

Banning a party because it can create a public nuisance sets a dangerous precedent which can be repeated to justify future bans.
24 Oct 2021

End of polio?

AFTER a long struggle, the reward is finally in sight. With only a single case of wild poliovirus reported this year...
24 Oct 2021

Heritage work

IT is encouraging that, slowly, projects of heritage conservation and preservation appear to be taking off. These...
A final push
Updated 23 Oct 2021

A final push

PAKISTAN’S hopes of exiting the so-called FATF grey list have been shattered once again. The global money...
23 Oct 2021

Kabul visit

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s flying visit to Kabul on Thursday is the first official high-level...
23 Oct 2021

Baqir’s blooper

THE remarks made by State Bank governor Reza Baqir at a London press conference have hit a raw nerve in Pakistan. In...