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Kosovar Serbs In Cat-And-Mouse Game With NATO On Border

NATO peacekeepers in Mitrovica
NATO peacekeepers in Mitrovica
MITROVICA -- NATO peacekeepers are busy blocking "alternative" border crossings into Serbia set up by Kosovar Serbs as they continue to protest the presence of Kosovo police and customs officials on the border, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
The Serbs have reverted to using back roads to cross into Serbia and bring food and other supplies to the territory they control in the north of Kosovo since NATO-led KFOR troops helped Kosovo and EU officials take over the main Jarinje and Brnjak crossings on September 16.
One of the alternative roads winds around the Jarinje crossing and to the village of Rudnica in southern Serbia. The Serbs cleared the path and prepared to asphalt it on September 22, but KFOR moved in and ringed the border with barbed wire to prevent people from using it.
Afterward the Serbs unloaded truckloads of gravel around KFOR troops to prevent them from using the road, just as they had previously done at the official Jarinje and Brnjak crossings, which remain unpassable.
Krstimir Pantic, a local Serbian leader, told RFE/RL on September 23 that the Serbs have begun using another back road to alleviate "a small humanitarian crisis because it is not possible to transport food, medicine, and fuel into the north of
"That road is open for traffic of passenger cars and to my knowledge it is not used for the transport of commercial goods," he said. "We are fully ready for a compromise with [Kosovar] Albanians and the international community but we cannot alow that there are [official] border crossings between Serbia and the north of the province [of Kosovo]. All other issues are open for negotiation."
Serbia and Kosovar Serbs do not recognize Kosovo's independence, which was declared in 2008. But 83 countries do recognize Kosovo as an independent state.
KFOR officials said they are working on a solution to the dispute.
"At the moment we are working on [some measures to] resolve it. I am sure we will find a solution," KFOR spokesman Ralf Adametz told RFE/RL.
The situation with the crossings has affected the implementation of a customs-stamps agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.
The continuation of talks between Kosovar and Serbian officials on technical issues is due to resume on September 27-28.