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News 15 May 13

Guns Banned for Kosovo Serb ‘Defenders’, Warns NATO

NATO’s Kosovo force warned that only authorised policing groups are allowed to carry weapons in northern Kosovo, not Serb-organised ‘civil defence’ units.

Edona Peci

“The only organisations allowed to carry weapons in the area are [NATO’s Kosovo force] KFOR, the Kosovo police, [the EU rule of law mission] EULEX and the Kosovo Security Force within its mandate and mission,” KFOR commander Volker R. Halbauer told journalists on Tuesday.

His statement came as Kosovo and Serbia examined how to implement an EU-sponsored action plan after they signed an agreement on normalising relations in Brussels on April 19.

The draft agreement mainly concerns the future of the Serbian community in Kosovo. Officials in Pristina say they need support from EULEX and KFOR to ensure its implemetation.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, northern Kosovo has been beyond the Pristina government’s control, while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

Among the Serb-run security institutions in the north are the Civilna Zastita (Civil Defence) units which have been described as illegal by the Kosovo authorities.

Halbauer said that “the legal basis of [organisations] has to be decided by other authorities”.

Referring to possible future cooperation with the Civilna Zastita, the KFOR commander said that “whoever contributes to a safe and secure environment is our partner, whoever is not doing that is not our partner”.

Despite resistance from Serbs in the north to the idea of accepting the authority of Pristina-led institutions, Kosovo officials have insisted that Serbian ‘parallel structures’ will be integrated into their institutions.

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