Monday, August 1, 2011

EU Envoy to Meet Serbian Officials Over Unrest: Media

BELGRADE - EU mediator Robert Cooper was to meet with Serbian officials Aug. 1 to discuss the recent unrest in Serb-majority nothern Kosovo, local media reported.
Cooper would meet Serbia's Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic and Belgrade's top negotiator Borko Stefanovic in Raska, a few miles from the border with Kosovo, the Beta news agency said, quoting well-informed sources.
The European Union already urged both sides last week to "show maximum restraint" to avoid further escalation after NATO troops stepped in when a border post in Kosovo was set on fire and bulldozed, apparently by ethnic Serbs.
Cooper is also set to meet Kosovo officials but it was not clear if that meeting would also be on Aug. 1.
On the ground, NATO forces reported Aug. 1 that they had removed three road blocks in northern Kosovo to allow access to one of the two border crossings that are at the center of a trade dispute.
Angry Kosovo Serbs had been blocking the roads leading to the crossing for several days.
"The operation was conducted swiftly and successfully. There was no resistance," the NATO-led KFOR mission said in a press release.
"The present situation in the North of Kosovo is calm but tense," KFOR added, but said its peacekeepers were "still deployed at the main gates".
Cars and buses are allowed to pass after rigorous security checks but heavy vehicles are still stopped at the border, it said.
"There is still the threat that radicals attack the crossing points like they did," KFOR warned.
Meanwhile in Pristina, the Kosovo security council chaired by prime minister Hashim Thaci ordered the police and other security services to be on the alert, a press release said.
"The Kosovo security council requested security agencies to keep a higher level of readiness for a possible intervention with all means available in case the state sovereignty and constitutional order are endangered," the government said in the press release.
Last week the Kosovo government ordered police to seize control of the two border crossings to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia, fearing it was not being respected by ethnic Serb members of Kosovo's border police.
The move provoked an angry response, with one Kosovar police officer killed and four others hurt in clashes with Serbs before the arson attack by masked men.
On July 28, troops from KFOR took control of both border posts to prevent large-scale violence.
Serbia banned imports from Kosovo immediately after it had declared independence from Belgrade in 2008. Pristina's decision to retaliate caught many by surprise.
More than 90 percent of Kosovo's imported food comes from Serbia, one of its main suppliers with goods totalling 260 million euros ($370 million) a year.
Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority have never recognized the government in Pristina.

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