News24

Peacekeepers teargas Serb roadblock

2011-11-24 10:47

Belgrade - Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo (KFOR) fired teargas at Serbs manning a roadblock late on Wednesday in the north of the volatile former province, Serbian state television RTS said.

KFOR attempted to dismantle a roadblock at Dudin Krs, near the Serb hub of Zvecan and north of Mitrovica. Reports said that dozens of protesters sought medical treatment, but no confirmation was immediately available.

It was unclear whether KFOR actually managed to remove the roadblock, which was partly made of concrete. Tension rose as sirens in Zvecan sounded off, urging the population to rush to the barricade.

Kosovo majority

The Serbs, who dominate the north of the mostly Albanian Kosovo, erected around 20 roadblocks in the area to prevent the government in Pristina from taking control over the borders to Serbia proper.

Albanians are a 90% majority in Kosovo. However, Serbs in the north fiercely resist any authority from Pristina and, nearly four years since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, still consider Belgrade their capital.

KFOR dismantled several roadblocks since the Serbs put them up at crossings in September, but each time the barricades were renewed. The latest incident occurred at Dudin Krs, north of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Serbia won’t recognise Kosovo independence

Serbia and Kosovo are holding negotiations under European Union auspices, with the aim of normalising at least some areas of life that were disrupted by the 1999 conflict in Kosovo and its eventual declaration of independence nine years later.

Serbian leaders promised never to recognise Kosovo's independence and have backed their compatriots' resistance to Pristina's rule.

But now, as Serbia needs to concretely improve relations with Kosovo in order to be recognised as an EU membership candidate, Serbs in northern Kosovo are refusing to comply with the agreements from the talks, saying even that would acknowledge Pristina's sovereignty.

Alongside KFOR, deployed at the end of the Kosovo war, an EU law-enforcement mission, EULEX, has been in the field since 2008.