Serb officials to meet KFOR commander over Kosovo tensions

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jul 2011

Two top Serbian officials will meet commander of NATO's mission in northern Kosovo to ease the growing tensions after Pristina seized two border crossings with Serbia

Two top Serbian officials were to meet on Wednesday in northern Kosovo with commander of NATO's mission there in a bid to ease tensions sparked after Pristina seized two border crosssing with Serbia.

"A solution for the crisis (triggered by Pristina's move) will be on the agenda," a source at the Serbian ministry for Kosovo, who requested anonymity, told AFP over the phone.

"The meeting will take place in Zvecan. Serbian Minister for Kosovo, Gordan Bogdanovic, and Serbia's chief negotiator (at EU-brokered talks), Borko Stefanovic, will meet KFOR commander Erhard Buhler."

The seizure of the two crossings marked a sharp escalation in a trade dispute between Kosovo and its former rulers in Belgrade, ramping up tensions in an area mainly inhabited by ethnic Serbs.

It also cast a further cloud over ongoing peace talks, brokered by the European Union.

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, had voiced regret over Pristina's move which had not not been done in consultation with either the bloc or the international community.

The EU has a force of around 650 police officers in the territory which is designed to help maintain security alongside a NATO mission known as KFOR of some 5,000 troops.

Pristina said operations at the two border crossing were aimed at replacing local ethnic Serb police suspected of turning a blind eye to imports of Serb products into Kosovo since a ban was introduced a week ago.

The raids however met with resistance from locals and one Kosovo policeman died on Tuesday evening after he was shot when his unit moved to seize one of the border crossings.

Although more than 70 countries, including most of the EU, have recognised Kosovo's independence, proclaimed in 2008, Serbia still regards it as its southern province. Belgrade does not allow any imports which have symbols of Kosovo as an independent state.

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