Kosovo increases police patrolling after recent tensions

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Kosovo police have stepped up patrols by Rapid Response Units following ethnic tensions last December when local Serbs blocked roads to protest Pristina rule.

The area is inhabited by some 50,000 local Serbs, but almost all police officers now are from the Albanian majority areas since November last year when some 600 police officers quit their jobs over a car license plate row.

The government in Pristina has said it will not allow reinstatement of officers who resigned and instead will fill their jobs with other policemen from other parts of the country until new officers will be hired from the Serb minority.

Serbs who do not recognise Kosovo’s 2008 independence and want to join Serbia have shown little or no interest to join the force.

“We will not compromise the rule of law and order, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo, or the lives and wealth of the citizens in that region. On these issues, there can be no compromise. We absolutely do not want another conflict in Kosovo.” Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla told Reuters.

Western diplomats have warned of a possible conflict if Kosovo and Serbia will not sign a long-lasting peace deal proposed by the European Union and supported by the United States also.

Last December, local Serbs blocked all roads in the northern part of the country for three weeks to protest against the arrest of a former Serb police officer.

Eventually, they removed the roadblocks after the former officer was put under house arrest.

Kosovo’s interior minister has accused Serbia and Russia of destabilising his country through the criminal groups in the north.

NATO still has some 3,700 peacekeepers on the ground and has urged calm, saying it will intervene if security is threatened.

Last month the European Union, U.S., German, French and Italian envoys met leaders of both countries to try to convince them to sign an 11-point deal meant to defuse tensions lingering since the 1998-99 war.

The western diplomats told both countries they should state by March whether they accept an international plan to normalise relations or face repercussions from the EU and the United States.

via Reuters

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