KFOR moves to remove roadblocks, Tadic sends message of support to Kosmet Serbs
20. October 2011. | 07:27 10:39
Source: Emg.rs, AFP, Tanjug
The NATO move came after talks with Serb leaders in northern Kosovo on Wednesday had failed to work out a deal over the barricades blocking access to the sensitive border crossings between Serbia and its breakaway republic Kosovo.Serbian President Boris Tadic sent a message to Serbs in northern Kosovo-Metohija that Belgrade strongly supports them, but that, however, they have to find a solution to enable KFOR to pass through the barricades.
NATO-led peacekeeping troops were on Thursday heading to a border crossing at the centre of recent clashes with local Serbs in northern Kosovo, witnesses said.
Two convoys of at least 100 armed transport vehicles, trucks and dredges of the Kosovo peacekeeping forces (KFOR) moved towards the Brnjak border crossing into Serbia at around 2:30 am (0030 GMT), local reporters contacted by AFP said.
A convoy stopped before the first roadblock on the road to the Brnjak crossing, a Kosovo Serb citizen on the scene told AFP by telephone, adding that some 150 local Serbs gathered at the barricade.
Meanwhile, another KFOR’s convoy stopped a few hundred meters (yards) away from another barricade on another road leading to Brnjak, a witness there said.
Some 100 Serbs swiftly assembled at the scene.
KFOR troops and Kosovo Serbs have been at a tense stand-off over two roadblocks barring access to the Brnjak and Jarinje and crossing points.
The situation at both barricades was tense but calm early Thursday, the sources said.
The NATO move came after talks with Serb leaders in northern Kosovo on Wednesday had failed to work out a deal over the barricades blocking access to the sensitive border crossings between Serbia and its breakaway republic Kosovo.
Angry local Serbs erected the barricades to prevent access to the border crossings after the Pristina government moved in September to put Kosovo Albanian customs and police officials on the border, fearing this would severely limit their access to Serbia.
The security of the Kosovo officials at the disputed border posts is currently guaranteed by KFOR and EULEX, which is mandated to oversee police and customs services.
KFOR tried to secure free flow of its vehicles carrying supplies to the mission's units at the Brnjak administrative crossing in north Kosovo on Thursday morning, Serbs are still near barricades, Serbian President Boris Tadic called on KFOR and EULEX to retrain from use of force, while local leaders are urged to decide in line with vital interest of the citizens rather than political parties.
There was no action on the road towards the Jarinje administrative checkpoint and no activities of the KFOR troops.
In the village of Jagnjenica, KFOR removed one of the three trucks which Serbs used to block the road towards the Brnjak administrative crossing and prevent transport of the international units for over a month.
The situation near the barricade calmed down on Thursday morning at 8.30 a.m., after KFOR had used teargas for number of times in an attempt to disperse Serbs.
There is a great number of Serbs at the barricade in the village of Zupce on the road towards Brnjak, where a KFOR convoy arrived early on Thursday morning but took no action.
French members of KFOR took control over a barricade near the Brnjak administrative crossing in north Kosovo by expanding security zone to the area behind the barricade.
According to Tanjug reporters, schools in Zubin Potok will be closed on Thursday.
In the municipality of Leposavic, near Jarinje, there are no activities of KFOR, while citizens gathered at the barricade near the crossing out of precaution.
About 150 Serbs including Zubin Potok Municipal President Slavisa Ristic and supporters of large opposition parties rallied at the barricade in Jagnjenica on Thursday morning at 2 a.m.
Serbian President Boris Tadic early on Thursday urged KFOR and EULEX to refrain from using force and local Serb leaders to act only in the best interest of the people.
KFOR to continue removing road blocks
KFOR spokesman Uwe Nowitzki said Thursday that KFOR's operation in the municipality of Zubin Potok was a success and KFOR will continue its operations aimed at establishing freedom of movement in Kosovo.
KFOR has managed to put the Brnjak administrative crossing under its control, as well as the alternative road around the crossing, which was being used for smuggling, Nowitzki told Tanjug.
According to him, KFOR will continue its operations aimed at establishing freedom of movement in Kosovo and providing safety for all citizens.
Nowitzki reminded that KFOR is responsible for the freedom of movement and security in the entire territory of Kosovo.
He did not specify if KFOR will carry out operations in other parts of northern Kosovo.
Tadic sends message of support to Serbs in Kosovo
Serbian President Boris Tadic sent a message to Serbs in northern Kosovo-Metohija that Belgrade strongly supports them, but that, however, they have to find a solution to enable KFOR to pass through the barricades.
Tadic is in regular contact with Minister for Kosovo-Metohija Goran Bogdanovic and Head of Belgrade's negotiating team in the dialogue with Pristina Borislav Stefanovic, who passed his message on to the people in the north of the province.
The president sent a message to Serbs in northern Kosovo-Metohija to stay near the administrative crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje day and night and keep fighting for their interests, but only in a peaceful way.
He added that Serbia supports them both politically and financially, but that, however, they have to open the roads for KFOR, the Belgrade press reported.
President's office confirmed to Tanjug that Tadic passed his message on to the Serbs in the northern Kosovo. Answering reporters' questions two days ago, Tadic said that he would be irresponsible if he suggested the people in northern Kosovo what to do through the media, and underlined that he personally has direct connection with them, as well as a way to send them such a message, which, as he put it, he has already done.
Bogdanovic:Serbs willing to find peaceful solution
Serbian Minister for Kosovo-Metohija Goran Bogdanovic stated that by their Wednesday decision, northern Kosovo Serbs showed that they have no problems with KFOR and that roadblocks still stand in that part of the province because of Pristina's violent and unilateral moves and not because of the international military mission.
Local Serbs demonstrated their commitment to finding a peaceful compromise solution to the problems triggered by Pristina's unilateral moves, Bogdanovic told Tanjug.
He warned that good will and the latest moves of northern Kosovo Serbs should not be misinterpreted or misused and that it should be seen exclusively as a gesture aimed at offering a friendly hand and showing willingness and determination to find a solution to the newly-arisen crisis through a dialogue.
He underscored that Serbs cannot accept the idea of KFOR bringing Kosovo customs officers and border police.
Bogdanovic expressed belief that the very moment EULEX stops bringing customs officers and border police, Serbs would remove roadblocks and enable freedom of movement for both military and civilian missions, just as they said on a number of occasions.
Kosachov: NATO resposible if tensions escalate
NATO will be held responsible in case of any disorder or escalation of tensions in Kosovo, Chairman of the Russian Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachov stated Wednesday.
Kosachov told Russia Today, the Russian TV channel in English language, that NATO would exceed its authorities should it decide to remove the roadblocks that appeared on the disputable territory, and in the process will fail to fulfill the mission's task.
I do not believe the mission of NATO and the European community is to forcefully make people accept the created configuration. Their mission is to protect those people, Kosachov said, Itar-Tass reported.
Taci: Rule of law will function in North
Kosovo Prime Minister Hasim Taci stated on Tuesday that rule of law and freedom of movement both for people and goods will function in northern Kosovo, and added that Kosovo institutions are cooperating with the international community on this issue.
The day KFOR announced removal of barricades in northern Kosovo, Taci said that the Pristina government is closely cooperating with EULEX, KFOR and the U.S. and pointed out that events in northern Kosovo are a part of collective responsibility.
Visiting the water supply facility in the village of Balince near Vucitrn, Taci said that the Kosovo government is trying to ensure democracy and free environment.