Kosovo Serbs turn back EU mission chief at roadblock
Oct 31, 2011, 16:21 GMT
Pristina/Belgrade - Serbs manning a roadblock in northern Kosovo on Monday stopped the head of European Union's law-enforcing mission in the former province (EULEX) Andy Sparkes, the mission said.
The Serbs have erected roadblocks to prevent the Kosovo government from installing customs officers to border crossings between their northern enclave and Serbia proper.
They allow NATO peacekeepers (KFOR) to pass, but not EULEX, which is manning the disputed border crossings together with officers appointed by the government in Pristina.
Sparkes was traveling with the KFOR commander Erhard Drews. When the Serbs refused to clear the barricade for Sparkes and EULEX vehicles, Drews also returned.
Both missions have warned Serbs - who maintain 18 roadblocks in the northern part that they dominate in the otherwise mostly Albanian Kosovo - that they must allow unrestricted freedom of movement.
'Preventing ... (EULEX) from moving freely through northern Kosovo doesn't send a good message to EU member states which have given EULEX its mandate and fully support its mission,' Sparkes said.
The blockade of northern Kosovo began in late July, when the Kosovo government attempted to seize control of the border crossings, Jarinje and Brnjak.
It escalated in September, when a deal the EU brokered between Belgrade and Pristina paved the way for the presence of customs officers at the borders - despite instructions from Belgrade, the Kosovo Serbs refused to allow that and dismantle roadblocks.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but the Serbs in the north remain fiercely hostile to Pristina's rule and insist that their enclave is Serbian soil.
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