The European Union’s international coverage chief has warned of “escalation and violence” after emergency talks between Kosovo and Serbia didn’t resolve their long-running dispute over automobile licence plates utilized by the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo.
Amid rising tensions between the Balkans neighbours, the EU’s excessive consultant, Josep Borrell, invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to Brussels for emergency talks on Monday.
“The 2 events didn’t comply with an answer in the present day,” Borrell mentioned in a press release to the media following eight hours of fruitless discussions.
“I believe that there’s an necessary duty on the edges of each leaders for the failure of the talks in the present day and for any escalation and violence which may happen on the bottom within the following days.”
Kosovo has tried this yr to require its Serb minority to alter their previous automobile plates that date earlier than 1999, when Kosovo was nonetheless a part of Serbia, matching Serbia’s earlier ban on Kosovo licence plates.
Serbs within the northern a part of the nation have resisted, typically violently, however Kosovo has mentioned it can begin issuing fines from Tuesday.
‘Sleepless nights are forward’
Borrell mentioned an EU proposal might have averted elevated tensions, however whereas Vucic accepted the proposal, Kurti didn’t.
He added that he would inform the EU member states of the 2 international locations’ “lack of respect for his or her worldwide authorized obligations” and warned that, given their dedication to becoming a member of the bloc, they need to act accordingly.
“I now count on Kosovo to right away droop additional levels associated to the re-registration of autos in north Kosovo,” Borrell mentioned, including that he requested Serbia to droop issuing new license plates with acronyms of Kosovo cities.
Kurti, in the meantime, blamed Borrell for focusing solely on the licence plates as a substitute of the complete normalisation of ties between Belgrade and Pristina.
“I’m prepared to come back again and speak primarily based on the identical agenda: remaining settlement on totally normalising ties, which on the centre has the bilateral recognition, and different present points of various character, just like the case of the quantity plates,” Kurti instructed reporters. “One can not do with out the opposite.”
However Vucic mentioned the Kosovan chief was chargeable for the failure of the assembly.
“Sleepless nights are forward of us,” he warned.
NATO, US name for calm
Tons of of cops, judges, prosecutors and different state employees from the Serb minority in Kosovo give up their jobs this month after the federal government in Pristina dominated that native Serbs should lastly exchange automobile plates issued by Northern Kosovo Serb municipal authorities loyal to Belgrade, with Kosovo state ones.
NATO, which nonetheless has about 3,700 peacekeepers stationed within the former Serbian province to stop violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, mentioned on Monday that “escalation have to be averted”.
“Now could be the time for duty & pragmatic options,” NATO Secretary Normal Jens Stoltenberg tweeted.
Spoke to @JosepBorrellF. We’re dissatisfied that it was not attainable to resolve the licence plate dispute. Now could be the time for duty & pragmatic options. Escalation have to be averted. @NATO_KFOR stays vigilant.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) November 21, 2022
The US additionally referred to as for either side to train restraint.
State Division Spokesperson Ned Value mentioned Washington joined the EU “in calling on Kosovo to right away droop any deliberate measures that may escalate tensions, together with the imposition of car fines”.
The dispute over licence plates has stoked tensions for nearly two years between Serbia and its former breakaway province, which declared independence in 2008 and is house to a Serb minority within the north backed by Belgrade.
The declaration of independence got here a decade after a conflict between ethnic Albanian fighters and Serbian forces that killed 13,000 folks, principally ethnic Albanians.
Serbia, supported by its allies Russia and China, doesn’t recognise the statehood of its former province however most Western international locations do, together with the US.
Some 50,000 ethnic Serbs who reside there refuse to recognise Pristina’s authority and nonetheless take into account themselves part of Serbia.