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Tensions in northern Kosovo

In the wake of tensions on the border between Serbia and Kosovo, Pristina has vowed to postpone a controversial measure on planned border controls for the time being. Working with international allies, his government has promised to suspend implementation of the measures for 30 days, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said overnight. The prerequisite is the removal of all barriers and the restoration of complete freedom of movement.

Hardline Serbs had set up barricades in Serb-majority areas north of Kosovo. Late in the evening, police in Pristina said that unknown persons fired shots in the direction of the Kosovo police officers, but that no one was hurt.

Tensions arose because Kosovo authorities no longer wanted to recognize Serbian identity documents at border crossings. Serbs with these papers must have a temporary document issued at the border. According to Kosovo’s interpretation, this is a measure based on reciprocity. Long ago, Kosovar citizens had to issue a temporary document when crossing the border into Serbia because the Kosovo papers were not recognized by the Serbian authorities. In addition, new rules should apply to car owners’ plate numbers.

The government statement said Kurti and the political leadership maintained contacts with representatives of the United States and Europe and promised to postpone the start of planned measures in cross-border traffic to September 1.

The NATO mission KFOR announced in the evening that the security situation in northern Kosovo was tense. It is monitoring the situation closely and, according to its mandate, is “ready to intervene if stability is threatened.” The mission that NATO leads every day is focused on ensuring a safe environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.

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Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by most Western countries. In addition to the veto power of Serbia and the United Nations Russia, five countries of the European Union also did not take this step, which is why Kosovo’s status under international law remains controversial.