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NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR, has called on Serbia’s authorities to unblock its border crossing with Kosovo at Jarinje for commercial traffic.
On Thursday, the peacekeeping forces have ordered all the truck drivers to use the administrative border crossing to import goods to Kosovo, or otherwise return to Serbia.
In its endeavour to close the illegal border crossing from Serbia to Kosovo, KFOR has established a number of vehicle checkpoints, and has prevented any transport of commercial goods, that exceed 3.5 Tones.
A day earlier, KFOR called on the Serbian authorities to get involved in solving the issue, instead of allowing such heavy trucks to cross through illegal routes to Kosovo.
“KFOR calls on responsible authorities to intervene to stop the illegal blockage of commercial traffic north of Gate 1 (Jarinje) on the Serbian side of the Administrative Boundary Line,” says a press release issued by the force on Wednesday evening.
Northern Kosovo, which borders Serbia, has long been prone to bursts of violence. Its population, which is almost entirely comprised of Serbs, does not recognise Kosovo's independence or the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina.
The situation there, deteriorated since last July last year, when the Kosovo government sent its special police forces to assert the authority over the two northern border crossings with Serbia.
As a response, Kosovo Serbs refuse to use the official border crossings and have instead created tens of by-pass roads which they use for traffic, and importing goods from Serbia proper.
“In order to maintain a safe and secure environment KFOR established a number of Vehicle Check Points preventing commercial traffic from using unauthorized routes across the Administrative Boundary Line,” says KFOR but argues that it has no capacity to check large trucks at those improvised check points.
KFOR has made several attempts to close those by-pass roads, but failed to convince Serbs from northern Kosovo to use the administrative border crossings.
Last November, over 40 NATO peacekeepers were injured in clashes with Serbs when KFOR soldiers tried to remove a roadblock on the road from the town of Mitrovica to the border at Jarinje.
“KFOR will not permit any development on the ground that threatens a safe and secure environment or limits the freedom of movement,” says the press release issued by KFOR.
Roads in the region have been blocked for a year by Kosovo Serbs protesting over the presence of Kosovo government police and customs on the border with Serbia.
Serbs have erected dozens of barricades since July 25, blocking roads in reaction to a government police operation aimed at seizing control of border crossings in the north.
The region remains under the de-facto control of so-called parallel institutions funded by Belgrade. These institutions include town councils, health authorities, post offices and schools.
About a hundred Kosovo Serbs rallied at Jarinje to protest over a border deal that they say implies recognition of Kosovo’s independence.
A summary of the key events leading up to tensions in northern Kosovo.