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Kosovar Serb Lawmakers Occupy Office Over 100 Percent Tariff On Serbia

Ethnic Serbs Hold Kosovo Parliament Sit-In
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WATCH: Ethnic Serbs Hold Kosovo Parliament Sit-In

Lawmakers representing Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority are refusing to leave the parliament building in Pristina to protest a 100 percent tax on products imported from Serbia.

Nine lawmakers from the Serb List party said on December 2 that they would remain inside their office in the building and seek a meeting with the European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The deputies plan to tell Hahn, who is expected to visit Pristina on December 3, that the tariff "practically blocks" the distribution of food and other essential products to ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo, they said in a statement.

On November 21, the Kosovar government slapped the 100 percent tax in retaliation for what it said were Belgrade's efforts to undermine the young republic on the international stage.

The move drew angry reactions from Belgrade and calls from the European Union and the United States to revoke the measure. It also prompted the mayors of four predominantly ethnic Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo to resign.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last week urged Kosovo to rescind the tariff, saying the measure "only complicates the situation further.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a similar call, urging Pristina to work with Belgrade to "avoid provocations and deescalate tensions."

However, Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on November 29 spurned the EU and U.S. calls, saying the levy will stay until Serbia recognizes Kosovo's sovereignty and reaches a normalization agreement with its neighbor.

Relations between Pristina and Belgrade have been tense since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia does not.

Both Kosovo and Serbia have been told they must resolve their differences in order to make progress toward EU membership, but EU-sponsored normalization talks have been stop-and-go in recent months.

With reporting by AP
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