Kosovo: war of the licence plates, Serb protest continues

Two border crossings blocked. Calm but high tension

23 September, 16:10

    (ANSAmed) - BELGRADE, SEPT 23 - The situation at the border between Kosovo and Serbia is relatively calm but full of tension on the fourth day in which demonstrations by Serbians are blocking the border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak to protest the licence plate change requirement for vehicles entering from Serbia.

    The two border crossings are blocked by a long line of lorries, bulldozers, tyres and other material preventing the regular passage of vehicles, making it possible to cross the border only on foot.

    The Merdare border crossing is currently the only one open to cars and lorries.

    The demonstrators are being held at bay by a massive deployment of armed Kosovar special forces police backed by armoured trucks.

    The protesters spent another night sleeping in tents to hold their positions and demonstrate against what they consider a unilateral and provocatory decision by Pristina.

    Since 20 September, all vehicles entering from Serbia and circulating in Kosovo have been required to change their Serbian licence plates to temporary Kosovar ones valid for two months at a cost of five euros.

    Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti said the decision was made under the "principle of reciprocity" in response to a similar requirement that Kosovar vehicles entering Serbia must abide by.

    The situation has further cemented the positions of the two already distant parties, placing new doubts on the possibility for continuing the EU-facilitated dialogue between the governments.

    Numerous appeals for moderation and a return to the negotiating table have come from the EU in Brussels, but Belgrade said it will allow the dialogue to resume only if the situation goes back to the way it was before 20 September, with a revocation of the licence plate requirement and the withdrawal from majority-Serb North Kosovo of the armed units of the Kosovar police.

    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Serbia is a sovereign country and Kosovo is not and cannot impose its own vehicle licence plates with the initials RKS - Republic of Kosovo.(ANSAmed).

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