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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

NATO-led troops clear roads at Kosovo disputed border

Forces clear a backroad used by ethnic-Serbs to bypass the disputed northern border crossing into Serbia

AFP , Friday 30 Sep 2011
Kosovo
German (KFOR) soldiers walk past barricades set up on the main bridge in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Thursday, (Reuters).
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An uneasy calm returned to a disputed border crossing in northern Kosovo Thursday after days of tensions with protesting ethnic Serbs, while NATO-led troops cleared the roads in the area.

"The situation is calm. We are just monitoring the situation at the moment. Our intention is to return the situation to normalcy as it was," Frank Martin, spokesman for the NATO-led KFOR force told AFP.

Earlier, KFOR units used heavy machinery to clear a side road that ethnic Serbs have used to bypass the disputed border crossing Jarinje towards Serbia, witnesses said.

"The scene (at the Jarinje border crossing) has been cleared by bulldozers. The alternative road has also been cleared by bulldozers," Martin told AFP.

KFOR troops also removed piles of pebbles that Serbs used to erect a make-shift blockade when the protest began earlier this week. Two armoured transporters could be seen on the main road leading to the border crossing.

No large group of Serbs could be seen near or around the Jarinje crossing, witnesses said.

Kosovo Serbs, backed by Belgrade, and the ethnic Albanian majority government in Pristina have been at loggerheads over control of the border crossings since July when efforts by the Pristina authorities to seize the crossings ended with the killing of a Kosovo police officer.

On Tuesday, KFOR moved to dismantle one of the main Serb roadblocks near the Jarinje crossing and at least four KFOR soldiers and six Serbs were injured in a violence that erupted later in the day.

In Kosovska Mitrovica, a Kosovo northern town with a majority Serb population, KFOR has apparently reinforced its presence near the bridge separating the two ethnic communities a day after three Kosovo Albanians were attacked by a group of Serbs while they were working on a US funded aid project.

Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

Belgrade officially still treats Kosovo as one of its provinces, and in northern Kosovo they maintain a parallel Serb administration with its own municipalities, courts, schools and hospitals.

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