Kosovo Crisis Deepens – First Food Shortages as a Result of Border Dispute

Two border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia are still blocked, food is growing short in northern Kosovo and tensions raise in the former Serbian province.

Today no goods from Serbia did arrive in the predominantly Serb-inhabited northern Kosovo. The Serb minority in Kosovo is depending on deliveries from Serbia unlike the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo. This caused the first shortages of essential goods in the shops of Kosovska Mitrovica, the largest town in Kosovo with ethnic Serb population. After KFOR troops blocked the border crossings at Jarinje and Brnjak, goods from Serbia can no longer reach Serb municipalities in the northern part of the province.

The check points at Jarinje and Brnjak in northern Kosovo are still closed for all traffic. At Jarinje, U.S. soldiers even prohibited pedestrians from crossing the border. At Brnjak the crossing is blocked with concertina wire, neither KFOR nor Kosovar personnel at the check point could tell how long the crossing would be blocked.

The situation is unchanged at the barricade in Rudare, in the municipality of Zvecan: around 200 local Serbs are still blocking the road to the Jarinje border crossing and KFOR units, obviously unprepared for the Serb resistance, had to abandon an attempt to reach their troops at the border yesterday. The Serbs blocked the road as a reaction to the refusal of Kosovo’s government to allow Serbian traffic to pass the border.

Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said that he could not attend the consultations at the UN Security Council (SC) on the latest development in northern Kosovo held on 28 July. According to Jeremic three of the five permanent UN SC members used their veto right to prevent Serbia from taking part in the consultations.

Today, 30 July, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic commented that the interim authorities in Pristina caused the crisis in northern Kosovo to provoke Serbia to abandon the dialogue between the two countries. Opening the debate at the extraordinary session of the Serbian parliament on the situation in Kosovo, the prime minister said Belgrade will do everything in its power to resolve the problems in Kosovo in a peaceful and democratic way. Cvetkovic said the crisis was caused by Pristina’s irresponsible and unilateral moves, aimed at changing the reality on the ground, upsetting the Serb population by trying to establishing Kosovo’s institutions in the northern (Serb) part of the country.

At a news conference in Pristina following a meeting with EULEX (the EU’s law enforcement mission in Kosovo) Head Xavier De Marnhac, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hasim Thaci reiterated the operations in northern Kosovo were meant to enforce the decision on reciprocity and rule of law. He was quoted earlier by the local media as saying that the embargo measures against Serbia would be kept in place. In conclusion, Thaci emphasized that Pristina  was ready to resume dialogue with Belgrade.

The Quint-countries (US, UK, France, Germany and Italy) condemned the move of the Pristina government which sent special police to take control of the border crossings in northern Kosovo earlier this week and warned that it must work in full coordination with the EU, EULEX and KFOR to find a peaceful solution. In a message to Prime Minister Hasim Thaci the Quint-countries expressed their concern about the situation and urged Thaci and his government to do everything possible to de-fuse the situation.

According to the Serbian daily Blic, Thaci informed EULEX about the intention to block the border just before the operation started. EULEX refused to give a green light but the Kosovo government went ahead despite that. Blic also wrote, that one of the few diplomats who knew about the operation was U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell.

(Sources: Blic, Tanjug, Middle East & Balkans News own research; 30 July 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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