Kosovo: NATO eyes reinforcements as Serb boycott continues

NATO is planning to deploy reinforcements in Serb-populated northern Kosovo to boost security as minority Serbs continue
to boycott Kosovo’s institutions, Albanian language daily Zeri said on Tuesday.

The paper said that the commander of 17,000-strong NATO force, Xavier de Marnhac, held a meeting with the chief of the United Nations administration (UNMIK) Joachim Ruecker, European Union representative Peter Feith and local officials on Monday to discuss the security situation in Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February with the support of western powers. De Marnhac, Ruecker and Feith assessed that the situation in Kosovo was “tenable”. But they judged that the deployment of additional NATO forces might be needed in northern Kosovo, where most of the minority Serb population lives, Zeri reported.

Local Serb municipal workers resigned in several Kosovo towns on Tuesday. Angry Serbs stopped trains from Pristina to the northern town of Lesak, demanding that local Serbs quit working for Kosovo’s railways.

Belgrade, which opposes Kosovo’s independence and is waging a diplomatic battle to retain Kosovo, later announced it was taking over the railway system in northern Kosovo. As a result, the train from Pristina didn’t
arrive on Tuesday and Kosovo officials asked Ruecker to establish control over the entire Kosovo territory.

Last week, local Serbs who refused to take orders from Kosovo’s government were replaced by members of other ethnic groups.

Kosovo was put under UN control in 1999, after NATO airstrikes drove out Serbian troops from Kosovo amid ethnic fighting and gross human rights abuses during a two-year war with guerrillas.

Belgrade has cooperated with UNMIK in the past nine years, but has kept parallel institutions in the province, especially the north.

“Unfortunately, the northern railway is not under control of Kosovo railways,” said Kosovo transport minister Dzevad Ramosaj, demanding Rucker’s intervention.

Kosovo president Fatmir Seidiu appealed to local Serbs to “return to normal life” and accused Belgrade of creating tensions and boycotting the new state.

Russia, Serbia’s ally, has blocked in the UN Security Council a UN-sponsored plan granting Kosovo independence. But leading western countries, headed by the United States, recognised Kosovo.

The EU was deploying its own 2,000 strong police and judicial mission in Kosovo, headed by Feith, to replace UNMIK.

Belgrade and Moscow have said the EU’s planned mission in Kosovo is illegal and called on local Serbs to boycott it.

Source: ADN Kronos

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