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News 11 Jul 14

North Kosovo Serbs, Albanians, Erect Rival Monuments

Albanians and Serbs individed northern Kosovo are marking out their respectives territories by erecting rival monuments named after their respective heroes.

BIRN
Pristina
 
  KLA concrete construction in Suhodoll/Suvi Do
                                                                       Photo: Behar Mustafa
 

Ethnic Albanians have responded to the construction of a new "Tsar Lazar" square on the main bridge of the divided town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo by erecting concrete constructions of their own.

Following the construction of the new square on the northern side of town on Wednesday, ethnic Albanians erected a concrete monument named "the KLA", the Kosovo Liberation Army, in the northern village of Suhodoll/Suvi Do.

Locals also told BIRN that they would start blocking roads if the Serbs did not stop work on the square.

On Thursday, Albanians erected another monument, named after an Albanian hero of the Kosovo war, Adem Jashari, in the so-called Bosniak Mahala, one of the few multi-ethnic neighborhood in north Mitrovica.

Catherine Ashton, EU Security and Foreign Policy chief, asked her team in Brussels to convene a meeting on Friday between the two sides “to work out an agreed way forward for all the issues related to the Mitrovica Bridge”.

The main bridge over the Ibar river in Mitrovica separates what are now two municipalities: South Mitrovica, largely inhabited by Albanians, and North Mitrovica, where mostly Serbs live. For the past several years, a large barricade manned by local Serbs has prevented the free flow of traffic.

Last month, the huge barricade made of stone and sand was transformed into a “Peace Park”, but this week Serbs decided to construct a larger square on the site, named after Lazar, a 14th-century ruler of Serbia who led the country into battle against invading Ottoman Turks in 1389 - a seminal event in Serbian history.

Tensions in the northern divided town of Kosovo revived on June 22 when a protest organized by Albanians from the south sparked violence with several people injured and many vehicles burnt.

The protest and subsequent events underscored underlying tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs that persist despite the success of EU-facilitated talks, which have made strides in normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

An April 2013 agreement between Kosovo and Serbia - which does not recognise Kosovo's independence - brought Serbs in northern Kosovo back under the overall authority of Kosovo institutions, with the offer of limited autonomy through an association of northern Serb municipalities.

Since then, Serbs in the region have participated in local and national elections held last November and in June.

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