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Kosovo: Serbia incites minority demonstrations to destabilize


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PRISTINA, Kosovo – Kosovo’s government on Monday morning accused neighboring Serbia of trying to destabilize the country as ethnic Serbs blocked roads and carried out other incidents in the north, apparently as part of a dispute on license plates and vehicle identification cards.

Kosovo officials had decided to resume the practice of requiring vehicles entering from Serbia to replace Serbian registration plates with Kosovo plates. The reverse is required by Serbia for vehicles from Kosovo traveling to Serbia.

Kosovo also plans to prevent its Serbian ethnic minority from using only Serbian identity cards when crossing the border.

Kosovo government statement said numerous ‘acts of aggression’ like blocking roads and shooting in ethnic Serb-dominated northern areas were committed on Sunday and accused of being instigated by Serbia .

After discussions with European and American partners, the “reciprocity” license plate and identity card project has been postponed for a month, until September 1, the government said.

Kosovo was part of Serbia until an armed uprising in 1998-99 by the territory’s ethnic Albanian majority triggered a bloody Serb crackdown. A NATO bombing campaign aimed at forcing Serbian troops out of Kosovo ended the war. But Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti and President Vjosa Osmani have accused Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of being behind the protests.

“Vucic and (Petar) Petkovic are the main culprits behind the riots,” Kurti wrote on Facebook. Petkovic is the Belgrade official in charge of Kosovo.

Osmani also wrote on Facebook that “Vucic’s efforts to destabilize Kosovo” would fail.

Vucic responded by saying “we have never been in a more complex situation than today” and blamed Kosovo for the escalating tensions over license plates and identity cards.

He accused Kosovo of trying to pose as a victim and ‘enjoy the vibe in the world where they think they can play cards’, he said, claiming Kurti was trying to be seen under the same day as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Vukic said Kosovo could not prevent its ethnic Serbs from using Serbian identity cards when crossing the border.

The NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo said it was monitoring the “tense” situation in northern Kosovo and was “ready to intervene if stability was threatened”.

The force said it would “take all necessary measures to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo at all times, in accordance with its UN mandate”.

The mission, which has some 3,800 troops from 28 countries, is led by NATO but is supported by the United Nations, European Union and others.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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