Kosovo moves to assert control over Serbian border

Kosovo moves to assert control over Serbian border

European Union's mission in Kosovo, EULEX, warned Kosovo authorities against unilateral actions early Tuesday as tensions in the former province rose following a bid by authorities to assert control over the Serb-dominated area, dpa reported.

Kosovo late Monday ordered special police units to take control of two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo, the largest enclave of the minority Serbs. Police deployed to one of the checkpoints, but were blocked by Serb barricades en route to the other.

Backed by Belgrade, Kosovo Serbs have been resisting Pristina's authority since the 1999 Kosovo war, and nothing has changed since the former province declared independence in 2008.

EU deployed the EULEX that same year to help the fledgling state enforce the rule of law in policing, justice and customs. Some Kosovo politicians have, however, seen the mission as a limitation of their nation's sovereignty.

The Pristina daily Koha Ditore online said the operation was "the first attempt of Pristina to assert its authority over the entire territory of Kosovo."

But EULEX warned that "unilateral actions by one side or the other are not helpful" and stressed that it was "in no way involved" in the Kosovo police operation.

"It is important that the current situation is resolved in a calm and peaceful manner," spokesman Nicholas Hawton said in a statement early Tuesday morning.

The NATO peacekeeping presence, KFOR, deployed units to the area to prevent violence.

The move came after Kosovo last week banned the import of Serbian goods, in response to failed talks aimed at liberalizing trade between Serbia and its former province.

With a 90-per-cent ethnic Albanian majority, Kosovo split in 2008 from Serbia, but its northern section, dominated by Serbs and under Belgrade's heavy influence, remains out of Pristina's control.

Belgrade leaders insist that Serbia will never recognize its former province as a sovereign state. Eager to move closer to EU membership, though, Serbia has agreed to begin negotiations with Kosovo over real-life issues complicated by the row.

The latest round of talks, held since March under EU auspices, was postponed last week as Serbia refused to lift an effective embargo it maintains on Kosovo's goods on its borders.

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