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News 24 Oct 11

NATO Air-lifting Supplies to Kosovo Troops

Essential supplies are being air-lifted to the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, by helicopter because key access roads remain blocked by local Serbs protesting against the presence of ethnic Albanian customs officers in northern Kosovo.

Maryrose Fison
Mitrovica, Northern Kosovo

JagnejenicaFrank Martin, a spokesperson for the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, told Balkan Insight that the multinational force present in northern Kosovo was receiving supplies from helicopters because multiple roadblocks continue to impede access to the border with Serbia.

He said the situation at the barricades – which number 16 and are positioned mainly along two of the region’s key roads- is “calm” at present and KFOR is “monitoring the situation”. He declined to give further details about the operation’s next moves.

“We are making an analysis of the meetings now to see what the way ahead should be now. It is now more a political question than a technical question,” he said referring to meetings held on the weekend between mayors of northern Kosovo’s four Serb-dominated municipalities and the Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Irish, American, German, Austrian and Portuguese soldiers are among the multi-national peacekeeping force which has been trying to dismantle barricades made of logs, rubble and stones for the past weeks. The exact number of troops stationed in northern Kosovo has not been disclosed by KFOR but there are approximately 6,100 stationed throughout Kosovo.

Meanwhile, local television stations in northern Kosovo are airing a daily broadcasted message from KFOR Commander Major General Erhard Drews explaining why the force is attempting to remove the roadblocks.

The vast majority of the population in northern Kosovo comprises Serbs who have historically rejected Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 and still consider Kosovo a Serbian province.

The roadblocks were first erected in July after the mainly ethnic Albanian government in Pristina sent Albanian customs officers to enforce a trade ban at two checkpoints on the border with Serbia.

Despite Kosovo’s declaration of independence, northern Kosovo remains under the de facto control of Serbia. The monetary currency in use in the territory is the Serbian dinar, as opposed to the Euro which is used throughout the rest of Kosovo. The Serbian, as opposed to Albanian, language is the predominant lingua franca and cars bear Serbian number plates.

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