NATO-led mission at Kosovo-Serbia border after deal to ease tensions

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The NATO-led Kosovo Force mission on Saturday took over the area near two Kosovo-Serbia border crossings following a deal reached by the two countries aimed at de-escalating tensions triggered by a dispute over vehicle licence plates.

Earlier this week EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak managed to convince representatives from Kosovo and Serbia to let the KFOR troops take over the areas for the next two weeks.

Ethnic Serbs took away trucks which they had used to block the road to the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings while Kosovar special police forces left too.

Police forces had deployed two weeks ago to impose a new rule of removing Serb licence plates from cars coming into the country, saying that a 10-year-old deal had expired.

Pristina said they were replicating what Serbia had done for the past decade.

Tensions soared high Monday Sept. 20 and afterwards Serbian military jets and helicopters flew close to the border with Kosovo in an apparent show of force.

“As from this weekend and for the next two weeks, KFOR will maintain a temporary robust and agile presence in the area,” said a KFOR statement.

“It was worth the agreement that we managed to conclude would have positive impacts not only for Kosovo but also for the region. And it will pave the way towards a sustainable solution that completely removes the existing barriers on the freedom of movement,” said Bislim Bislimi, Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo.

“Paradoxically, we are the only two countries that have special regimes with the freedom of movement, which has nothing to do with European standards and best practices that should be our main orientation on our EU path.”

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KFOR, with around 4,000 troops from 28 countries, is led by NATO but is supported by the United Nations, the European Union and others.

Its aim is to stave off lingering ethnic tensions between majority Kosovo Albanians and minority Kosovo Serbs after Kosovo broke away and became independent from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia, supported by its allies Russia and China, doesn’t recognize the statehood of its former province which is recognized by the United States and most of the West.

The EU-facilitated negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade started in 2011 and have produced more than 30 agreements which are either not respected at all or poorly.

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