EU slams Kosovo, Serbia over car license plate dispute, as fears of violence grow – Reuters

Europe’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has criticized the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia – but especially Kosovo – for failing to defuse a dispute over car license plates that risks escalating into a new violent conflict.

Borrell organized emergency talks in Brussels On Monday between Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti in an unsuccessful attempt to strike a last-minute deal.

“Both bear full responsibility for the failure of today’s talks and for any escalation and violence that may occur on the ground in the following days. We presented a proposal which President Vučić accepted today, while Prime Minister Kurti did not,” Borrell said, adding that he expects Kosovo to “immediately suspend additional steps related to the re-registration of vehicles in northern Kosovo”, while asking Serbia to suspend issuing new license plates with the names of Kosovo towns.

“I know, it sends a very negative political signal,” Borrell said bluntly, after pointing the finger at Kosovo for particular criticism over “the behavior of different parties and the lack of respect for their international legal obligations.”

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani dismissed the accusations on Facebook, saying “what we saw today from Mr. Borrell was openly exposed unilateralism, accommodation of the aggressor and presentation of a completely distorted reality”.

The license plate issue has been a source of contention for some time, with local Kosovo Serbs preferring to use Belgrade-issued plates which are illegal in Kosovo. The row sparked repeated flare-ups over the summer.

The tension dates back to a war in the late 1990s, after which Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the sovereignty of its former province. Pristina and Belgrade have been trying to negotiate on technical issues in an EU-led dialogue since 2011.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said On Monday, he said he was “disappointed that it was not possible to resolve the license plate dispute” and called for “pragmatic solutions” to avoid an escalation, warning that the Force of the NATO in Kosovo “remains vigilant”.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey M. Hovenier said in a statement that Washington was “concerned” about the impossibility of reaching an agreement, adding that it had asked the Kosovo government to “defer for 48 hours the imposition of fines to allow the EU and the United States to further commit the parties to finding a solution”.

kurti tweeted that he had agreed to the request, adding, “I am happy to work with the US and the EU to find a solution over the next two days.”

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