The Force of NATO for Kosovo (KFOR) announced this Sunday at the last minute that “it is ready to intervene” in the event that the stability of northern Kosovo is endangered, after Serbs from northern Kosovo have cut off two border crossings linking the region with Serbia.
“KFOR will take all necessary measures to maintain a safe environment in Kosovo at all timesin accordance with its UN mandate”, it has made known in a statement on its Twitter account, after the rise in tensions in the north of Kosovo registered in the last hours.
The dispute has begun as a way of protesting the entry into force this Monday of a new Kosovar regulation on identity documents and license plates whereby those entering the country from Serbia will have to surrender their Serbian identity documents for identity documents issued by Pristina valid for three months.
Likewise, car license plates issued by Serbia for Kosovar cities with a majority Serb population will have to be replaced by official Kosovo from August 1. These measures respond in reciprocity to the policy applied by Serbia to the citizens of Kosovo who visit Serbia, according to the station Radio Free Europe.
Until now, Kosovo has considered license plates with the initials of the cities of Kosovska Mitrovica (KM), Pristina (PR) or Urosevac (UR) illegal, but has tolerated their use in the four Serbian-majority municipalities. License plates will now have to bear the acronym for the Republic of Kosovo (RKS). The deadline for the change ends on September 30.
For this reason, KFOR has assured that it is ready to intervene in the event that stability in northern Kosovo is put at risk, and has recalled that NATO “closely monitors” the situation in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.
“The NATO-led KFOR mission is focusing on the daily implementation of its UN mandate to ensure a safe environment and freedom of movement for the entire population of Kosovo.. KFOR maintains a visible and agile posture on the groundand the Commander of KFOR is in contact with all his main interlocutors, including the representatives of the Kosovo security organizations of Kosovo security and the Serbian Chief of Defense,” the unit detailed in the letter.
In this sense, NATO has shown its full support for the normalization process between Pristina and Belgrade through dialogue facilitated by the European Union, and has called on all parties to continue negotiations.
“It is important that this continues. It is essential for regional peace and security. There will be no real prospects for a better future in the Balkans if they are not fully respected by the Human rights and democratic values, the rule of law, internal reforms and good neighborly relations. Constructive dialogue is key to regional stability,” KFOR added in its letter.
The conflict between the two sides began in September 2021, when Kosovo ordered all drivers entering the country from Serbia to use Provisional registrations valid for 60 daysa measure that was already in place for drivers entering Serbia from Kosovo since 2008.
five countries of the EUincluding Spain, do not recognize the 2008 Kosovar unilateral declaration of independence. The EU, however, acts as a mediator in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, on which the general normalization of relations and the possibilities of joining the community bloc would depend.
The EU diplomatic initiative, which reactivated the dialogue process in 2020, seeks to the two parties normalize their relations on binding terms and according to international standards, something that he considers a ‘sine qua non’ condition for the European path.