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Serbia Refuses Entry To Kosovo Boxers For World Championships


This year's 2021 World Boxing Championships are being held in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, starting October 24. (file photo)

The world governing body of amateur boxing says it is in talks with the Serbian Boxing Federation over Belgrade's refusal to allow Kosovo boxers to enter the country in order to compete in the world championships this week.

The 2021 World Boxing Championships are being hosted by Serbia at Belgrade's Stark Arena from October 24 through November 6.

But the Kosovo Olympic Committee said late on October 23 that its athletes have been denied permission to cross the border twice by Serbian officials.

In a Facebook post, the Kosovo Olympic Committee said its team was turned back the first time for wearing Kosovo's national symbols.

It said the team returned to Pristina, then made another attempt to cross into Serbia without the symbols but were denied entry again.

Kosovo, a former part of Serbia, declared independence in 2008. It is recognized by around 100 nations. But the government in Belgrade still considers it to be a part of Serbia.

The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) says it is trying to "remedy the situation" through its contacts with the Serbian Boxing Federation.

"The Kosovo Boxing Federation has been a full member of AIBA since November 2014 and is expected to attend the AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships," the AIBA said in a statement.

"The AIBA expects that the Kosovo Boxing Federation’s delegation will be treated no differently than the delegation of any other AIBA member," it said.

The AIBA also said that it aims to "provide a welcoming home for every boxer, and the world of boxing has no borders."

It said "all athletes must receive a fair chance to compete and demonstrate their best abilities in the ring," adding that "sport is intended to unite people and should be free of national politics."

Reports from Pristina say Kosovo's foreign minister, Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, and sports minister, Hajrullah Ceku, have written to Serbia's sports minister, Vanja Udovicic, about the development.

They said they "strongly condemn" Serbia's action which they called "unfair and politically influenced" and urged Serbia to grant their athletes the right to compete.

With reporting by dpa
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