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Tension Flares As Kosovo Prepares To Reopen Northern Border Post

Burned-out Kosovo police vehicles at the Serbia-Kosovo border crossing in Jarinje following violent ethnic clashes in July.
Burned-out Kosovo police vehicles at the Serbia-Kosovo border crossing in Jarinje following violent ethnic clashes in July.
PRISTINA -- Kosovo says it will reopen two border outposts in its Serb-dominated north this week in a move that could reignite tensions that led to deadly clashes in July, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

In an interview with RFE/RL on September 13, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Kosovo’s government would take control of custom points 1 and 31 on September 16.

He said the plan would be under the authority of Kosovo’s institutions, which will work in cooperation with the European Union's Rule of Law (EULEX) mission and the peacekeeping force (KFOR) in Kosovo.

Thaci added that his administration would be "establishing strict rules, the same as in other custom points of the Republic of Kosovo."

Serbian President Boris Tadic called the decision “the height of irresponsibility and dangerous behavior," and warned against any attempts by Kosovo to deploy police and customs officials at the border outposts.

Tadic criticized international officials in Kosovo for allegedly backing Pristina's plans, saying they will be "responsible for any consequences" that may result.

He said the disputed issues should be resolved in an ongoing European Union-mediated dialogue.

Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said he had lodged a protest with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But Thaci maintained that the Belgrade authorities had no power to change anything in the implementation of the decision, and promised “law and order” in the north.

"We are already chasing parallel and criminal structures," he said. "Those structures will face the force of Kosovan and international justice with regard to smuggling, organized crime, the use of violence, and terrorism."

"Meanwhile, the authorities in Belgrade are absolutely powerless to have any impact on the implementation of decisions by Kosovo’s institutions."

Thaci repeated the plan to reopen the border posts when speaking to reporters in Pristina on September 14, accusing Serbia of preparing "to cause violence."

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia with Western backing in 2008.

Pristina wants its own police and customs officers on the border, while minority Serbs in the north have resisted such a move.

One Kosovo Albanian police officer was killed in July in clashes that flared up when Pristina tried to take control of two border crossings.