Kosovo Serbs refuse ultimatum. KFOR postpones removal of barricades

Serbs in north Kosovo on Tuesday resisted a demand by NATO peacekeepers to remove more than a dozen roadblocks in a months-long stand-off over control of two disputed border...
Serbs in north Kosovo on Tuesday resisted a demand by NATO peacekeepers to remove more than a dozen roadblocks in a months-long stand-off over control of two disputed border crossings. But as of Tuesday, the barricades were still there, and NATO pulled out its convoy of trucks and armoured personnel carriers that had been ordered to travel to the contested Brnjak border crossing, about 100 kilometres north of Pristina.
by Vedat Xhymshiti on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 – Mitrovica, Kosovo.
Serbs instead of removing the barricades they are reinforcing them
on Tuesday, October 18, 2011.
(Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)

NATO’s peacekeeping force (KFOR) had given minority Serbs until Tuesday to remove barricades erected in July when Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-dominated authorities tried to take control of the border points. 
KFOR command in Pristina postponed the removal of barricades in the ethnically divided north of Kosovo, announced over the weekend from Monday to Tuesday. On last Saturday, presidents of four Serbian municipalities informed KFOR Commander General Erhard Drews, that they will only be able to reply to the request to remove the barricades on Wednesday, after the joint session of deputies in Zubin Potok. The media are talking about another postpone that KFOR will wait up to 19 October.
“Representatives of the municipalities Leposavic, North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok and Zvecan requested more time and the KFOR commander decided to give them another day. The KFOR commander appreciates their willingness to open the roads for the supply of KFOR soldiers in Nothing Hill camp and at Brnjak and Jarinje crossings”, reads statement issued last night by KFOR. The statement also notes that the “KFOR mission is preserving a secure environment and freedom of movement for all people from all communities in Kosovo”.
Even that KFOR announced for today the start of removal of barricades in the north with the decision of KFOR Commander German General, Erhard Drews, and this deadline has been postponed for tomorrow. The postponement has been done with the aim to be given more time to the Serb citizens that the Serbs to remove themselves the barricades in the north. But Serbs instead of removing the barricades they are reinforcing them today, with not just gravel, but using human bodies such as primary school pupils and the whole people of the northern Kosovo inhabitants.
The Serbian state Secretary for Kosovo, Oliver Ivanovic, stated that if KFOR tries to pass it will not achieve, because there will be many people in the barricades. KFOR must abandon from unilateral acts and that to seek the solution in the field, in talks with the representatives of municipalities, while the customs are the area of Pristina, Belgrade and Brussels, said Ivanovic for Serb newspaper Danas.
On the other side, several thousand Serbs from the village of Zupce said to the international community, KFOR and Pristina this morning that they will prevent, by peaceful protest, any installation of Kosovo institutions in the north as they call it a Serbian province.
The mayor of the municipality of Zubin Potok, Slavisa Ristic, said that citizens who gather at barricades are not defending woods and logs, but their land, houses and future of their children. Ristic appealed for all to be “calm and wise,” and urged them to gather again tomorrow morning in Zupce as they did today”.
“If KFOR tries to take down the barricades tomorrow, we’ll stay calm, we sit around the barricades. If this is their justice and freedom, than we don’t need it”, said Ristic. “We ask for nothing from them, we just ask them to leave us alone, to let us to stay and live in the state of Serbia”, said Ristic.
“If Serbia is not here, it isn’t in Belgrade as well”, said Ristic. He added that people who are defending their houses recognize and admire the assistance provided by friends. The gathering in Zupce ended peacefully with citizens returning to work, apart from those who are on duty at barricades.
Nebojsa Jovic, one of the prominent representatives of the Serbs from northern Kosovo told reporters that “The power is in the ‘wrong hands.’ It’s up to us to do our outmost, “We don’t want to be sacrificed for the interest of individuals in Belgrade. We will not allow ourselves to be put in a situation, like Serbs south of the Ibar River who were written off by Belgrade and forced to obey Pristina, to become second class citizens, people for experiments. We don’t want violence, we will not fight with KFOR, but we will react”, said Jovic, claiming Kosovo remains apart of Serbia.
However, the Special Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, warned Serbia that in order to get candidate status, the Serbian government should clearly call for the removal of barricades in the north, because without this there is no application of the agreement on customs seals.
In September, NATO used helicopters to bypass the barricades and establish a skeleton EU and Kosovo police and customs presence at the border gates #1 and #31.
But the roadblocks remain, in a challenge to the West’s efforts to reverse Kosovo’s de facto ethnic partition.
Serbia effectively runs northern Kosovo, but is under pressure to help resolve the impasse after the European Commission conditioned future EU accession talks on Belgrade’s cooperation on Kosovo
Previous attempts to remove the barricades have ended in violent clashes. Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombed for 78 days to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
More than 80 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union, have recognised the new country.
Picture and Text Copyright 1997 – 2011 Vedat Xhymshiti. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.

Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist and war correspondent. He has reported on a number of Middle Eastern conflicts from the Arab Spring in 2010 to the current Syrian civil war. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde ect. He is specialized in International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic, a columnist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and founder of THEFrontliner.net

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