Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Renewed fighting at Kosovo border leads talks to collapse

New violence on the contested border between Kosovo and Serbia has left many wounded and led to the cancellation of the latest round of talks aimed at settling the dispute.

The latest fighting flared on 27th September, near a border crossing which has been the focal point for issues of control and sovereignty. At least four peacekeepers from NATO's KFOR were wounded, as were at least 16 Serbs.

Accounts of the fighting are disputed. NATO, which moved its peacekeepers to the border crossing recently in a bid to defuse tensions, said that its forces were attacked by a crowd who threw pipe bombs, wounding four, which led the peacekeepers to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets. Serb sources, however, say that NATO used live rounds which wounded at least six protestors.

The violence occurred after NATO dismantled roadblocks set up by the Serbs near the disputed checkpoint. The barricades are intended to prevent ethnic-Albanian Kosovan police from taking control of the border post and to guard a new path into Serbia constructed by the Serbs which avoids the NATO checkpoint.

Both sides condemned the violence, with Serbia laying the blame on NATO and Kosovo attributing it to “criminal structures” in the ethnically-Serb north of Kosovo. A new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, mediated by the EU, was due to take place later on 27th September, but was called off by Serbia.

The talks were intended to settle 'technical' issues such as customs, property rights and managing the flow of people and goods. Serbia has said that it will not resume them until it has assessed what happened at the border crossing.

Sources: BBC, Reuters, AP

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