[Photo: Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on his way to the St. Demetrios Church in Kosovska Mitrovica where a Moleban was served for the suffering Serbia people of this region. The Patriarch has called for a three day fast, Thursday – Saturday, and molebans to be served each night in parish churches. The situation is tense.]
H/T: The Vancouver Sun (here)
UN Urges Retraint over North Kosovo Border Gates
UNITED NATIONS – UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Kosovo and Serbia on Thursday to avoid actions that could exacerbate tensions in northern Kosovo as NATO prepares to hand authority over border gates to EU and Kosovo officials.
“I call on all concerned to refrain from unilateral actions which could escalate tensions in the area,” the UN secretary-general told a news conference.
Belgrade does not recognize Pristina’s February 2008 declaration of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.
Ban’s remarks came ahead of an evening meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue of the border posts as requested by Serbia and Russia. Western diplomats on the council said the 15-nation body was unlikely to take any action.
Ban said he was concerned about escalating rhetoric coming out of Serbia and Kosovo over the border gates.
Kosovo has said its police and customs officers will take over two crossings after midnight on Thursday, which Serbia has warned could ignite clashes. NATO’s 6,000-strong peacekeeping force (KFOR) says it will act to stop any violence.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic — in a letter to the Lebanese president of the Security Council, Ambassador Nawaf Salam — suggested the EU police and justice mission (EULEX) and KFOR were colluding with Pristina.
Jeremic told Salam that Belgrade had received “information that KFOR and EULEX intended to facilitate” the transfer of authority over Gates 1 and 31 to Pristina.
“This would constitute grave violations of their respective status-neutral mandates under Security Council resolution 1244,” Jeremic wrote.
Security Council diplomats said both Kosovo and Serbia were misrepresenting an EU-brokered agreement on Gates 1 and 31 in northern Kosovo, a majority-Serb enclave of the otherwise predominantly Albanian region.
Kosovo officials have said they will be taking over control of the gates from NATO, a view Serbian officials have echoed.
In fact, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity, EULEX will take over the crossings with a minimal and “low key” presence of Kosovo customs and police officers.
“It’s a misrepresentation of what has been agreed,” a diplomat told Reuters. “EULEX will take the lead from KFOR.”
Any presence of Kosovo officials in the area, however low key, is bound to infuriate Serbia, which has made clear its view that Pristina authorities have no right to administer the ethnic Serb-dominated region.
Kosovo tried in July to install police and customs officers at the two crossings on its border with Serbia but armed Serbs drove them back, burning down one border gate in the process.
Ban urged Pristina and Belgrade “to continue the European Union-facilitated dialogue and build on its successes so far and to take the practical steps toward implementation of the agreements reached so far.”
“I also urge them to . . . prevent confrontation and violence in northern Kosovo,” he added.
Belgrade lost control over Kosovo in 1999, when NATO launched a bombing campaign to halt Serb atrocities and ethnic cleansing in a counter-insurgency war under then Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Since 2008, the new state of around 1.7 million mostly ethnic Albanians has been recognized by more than 80 countries, including the United States and most of the EU. But Russian opposition has prevented it from joining the United Nations.