News / Europe

Serbs Begin Removing Kosovo Roadblocks

German troops serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo patrol near the Serb erected barricade in the village of Zupce, October 26, 2011.
German troops serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo patrol near the Serb erected barricade in the village of Zupce, October 26, 2011.

Serbs in Kosovo have started to partially remove barricades that have blocked NATO-led peacekeepers for three months, in a bid to ease tensions in northern Kosovo.

Serbs partially dismantled the roadblocks consisting of logs, mud, rocks, tires and other vehicles on Thursday.  They opened one lane of traffic to allow the peacekeepers free movement to re-supply and rotate their troops.

But Kosovo-Serb official Slavisa Ristic says they plan to keep control of the roadblocks in order to prevent the deployment of ethnic-Albanian customs officials.

After the Serbs ignored a NATO deadline to take down the roadblocks, an attempt by peacekeeping troops to remove the barriers ended in a tense standoff.

Kosovo Serbs put up the barricades after Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian-dominated government tried to take control of the border crossings in July as part of a trade dispute.  An attempt by Kosovo police to take down the barricades erupted in violence, resulting in the death of an ethnic Albanian police officer.

About 40,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo, making up the majority in a number of towns.  They refuse to recognize the authority of the government in Pristina, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade has urged Kosovo Serbs to find a compromise to the crisis, after the European Union made it clear Serbia cannot be considered for entry into the bloc this year unless the situation in Kosovo improves.

.Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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