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Tensions high as Serbia deploys armoured vehicles at Kosovo border

  • Published at 08:31 pm September 27th, 2021
Serbian Army deployed in the Kosovo border
Serbian army soldiers stand guard by their armoured vehicle in the village of Rudnica near the southern Serbian town of Raska on September 27, 2021 AFP

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Kosovo on Monday and labelled Serbia's latest moves ‘theatrical military manoeuvres’

Tensions were high on Monday at the border between Kosovo and Serbia as Belgrade deployed four armoured vehicles close to the frontier, an AFP correspondent saw.

Already tense relations between Serbia and its former ethnic-Albanian majority province have grown worse since the government in Kosovo despatched special police units to the north a week ago, an area mainly populated by ethnic Serbs who reject the authority of Pristina.

The move, which angered the Serbs, came after Pristina decided to require drivers with Serbian registration plates to put on temporary ones when entering Kosovo.

Furious with the decision, hundreds of ethnic Serbs, many of whom have Serbian number plates, staged daily protests and blocked the traffic at Kosovo's two northern border crossings with Serbia.

On Monday, the Serbian army deployed four armoured vehicles just two kilometres from the Jarinje crossing, according to the AFP correspondent.

The Serbian state-run RTS television broadcast footage of the vehicles as well as Serbian soldiers deployed close to the border.

The country's defence ministry accused Kosovo of "provocations" at the weekend, and Serbian fighter jets flew over the border region.

Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic also visited troops at two military bases by the Kosovo border.

Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Kosovo on Monday and labelled Serbia's latest moves "theatrical military manoeuvres."

After a meeting with his Kosovo counterpart Albin Kurti, Rama told reporters that the "only solution is a dialogue."

But he stressed Albania's position remained "unchanged from the first moment since this row has emerged.

"Kosovo is right."

Serbia argues that Kosovo's decision to mandate temporary plates implies its status as an independent nation, which Belgrade does not recognise.

But Pristina replies that it is only about reciprocity as Kosovo's plates are banned in Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after a war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces.

Serbian ally Russia also does not recognise Kosovo's independence, but most Western countries do, including the United States.

Washington and Brussels have called for a de-escalation of the latest tensions and for the two sides to return to normalisation talks, which the European Union has mediated for about a decade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the normalization process can resume only if Kosovo withdraws the special police forces from the ethnic Serb-populated north.