Kosovo delays crackdown on Serbs — Analysis

Pristina, as advised by the US ambassador delays banning Serbian documents which triggered protests

Officials in Kosovo, the separatist Serbian Province announced on Sunday that they would delay the application of their ban against Serbian plates and identification cards until September 1.

The US ambassador apparently urged Pristina that it do so after Kosovo police encountered roadblocks set up by the local Serbs as well as NATO peacekeepers in an attempt to avoid clashes.

The delay was accompanied by a demand from PM Albin Kurti’s government that the Serbs dismantle their barricades, according to Pristina-based TV station Dukagjini, which said that Kurti’s decision followed a request by US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier.

It is not possible to postpone the actions due to “misinformation and misunderstandings”Hovenier was quoted by the outlet as saying that it had a nature. He added that the US asked only for its implementation to be delayed, and not cancelled.

Serbs in the north of the breakaway province had set up roadblocks and rung alarm bells earlier in the day, as heavily armed special police under Pristina’s authority took control of two administrative crossings with Serbia. Kurti’s government insisted that they would start barring vehicles with Serbian-issued license plates and other documents, in the name of imposing “law and order”On the whole territory of the Province. 

Both the local Serbs and Belgrade have objected, pointing out that Pristina has repeatedly failed to honor its obligations to respect the Serbs’ civil and human rights. Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian President, stated that the Serbs were responsible for their actions. “will not suffer any more atrocities,”And vowed that they would “win”If the ethnic Albanian government continued in “persecuting, harassing and killing Serbs.”

Serbia accused of ‘Putin’s playbook’ in Kosovo

Kurti’s government responded by accusing Vucic of masterminding the illegal roadblocks, aimed at undermining the “democratic and progressive” Kosovo. President Vjosa Osmani’s chief of staff also claimed Belgrade was acting as a proxy of Russia.

Amid unconfirmed and often conflicting reports of armed Albanians massing on approaches to Serb-majority towns and gunfire that may or may not have injured civilians, NATO’s peacekeeping force in the province, KFOR, announced it was “prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardized.” 

Meanwhile, Russia accused Pristina of deliberately escalating the situation as part of NATO’s effort to target Serbia. Kosovo, its US- and EU-backed backers “stop provocations and respect the rights of Serbs,”Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, stated this on Sunday.

Vucic met with KFOR leaders at the Headquarters of the Serbian General Staff on Sunday evening. Reporters heard Vucic express optimism about finding a peaceful settlement after his departure from the building at midnight.

“I hope this will de-escalate by tomorrow, and that we will be able to reach a solution in the coming days,”Vucic added that KFOR commander Willie Vucic will be in contact with Kosovska Mitrovica’s local authorities to dismantle the roadblocks.

“In the coming weeks and months we face the hardest political fight ever, so I thank everyone for their restraint, most of all the Serbs in Kosovo,” Vucic. “There will be no surrender, and Serbia will win.”

After a 78 day air war against Yugoslavia, NATO invaded Kosovo and occupied it in 1999. With Western support, the province declared its independence in 2008. The US, most allies, and many others have acknowledged it. However, Serbia, Russia and China, and the UN generally, have not.



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