Kosovo Government Postpones Decision to Impose Ban on Serbian Documents Until September 1
22:15 GMT 31.07.2022 (Updated: 23:27 GMT 31.07.2022)
Ahead of the pullback by Kosovo officials, the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR)mission issued a statement indicating that the group was ready to intervene if stability in the area was jeopardized. The Serbian president later detailed that a KFOR commander would be on site by midnight.
The Kosovo government decided late Sunday to postpone its decision to implement a ban on Serbian license plates and identification cards. The ban was pushed back one month - until September 1.
Local media detailed that the decision was made following a meeting between US ambassador Jeffrey Hovenier and the Kosovo leadership; however, the postponement was agreed to only the condition that barricades in the northern region are officially removed.
"The Government of the Republic of Kosovo strongly condemns today's blocking of roads in the north of Kosovo and the shooting by armed people of illegal structures there," reads a translation of the statement. "It is about the tendency to destabilize Kosovo and endanger the peace and security of citizens and our country."
"There have been numerous aggressive acts this afternoon and evening, incited and prepared by official Belgrade. Prime Minister Kurti together with President Osmani and Deputy Prime Ministers Bislimi and Gërvalla have developed contacts and meetings with American and European international factors," it continues.
"On this occasion, the Government of Kosovo pledges to postpone the implementation of the two decisions dated June 29, 2022, until September 1, 2022, from Monday, August 1, 2022. when all barricades will be removed and full freedom of movement will be established on all roads in the north of Kosovo. We thank the international partners, in particular the American ambassador Jeffrey Hovenier, for their commitment and contribution."
The decision has been welcomed by international figures, including Joseph Borrell, who serves as the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.
The development came about moments after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called for a peaceful solution to the latest escalation in tension. At the time, the official called for international representatives to help deescalate the matter, while also giving his thanks to Serbs in northern Kosovo for their "restraint and courage."
Vucic had also stated in his address that the dispute would be settled by Monday. "I believe that we will have good news, I hope that this will be finished, not tonight, but tomorrow," he said.
Earlier Sunday, law enforcement officials in Kosovo confirmed that shots had been fired in the direction of local police amid rising tensions in the region over a decision to ban Serbian licenses and IDs. Police shut down the Jarinje and Brnjak administrative crossing points and air raid sirens were heard in the town, where both Serbs and Albanians were gathering.
The latest spate in tensions began on Friday, when Kosovo authorities announced that starting August 1 Serbian-issued documents would be invalid and their owners would receive temporary certificates when entering Kosovo. At the same time, Kosovo was going to start mandatory re-registration of vehicles with Serbian license plates, which would affect Serbians in the northern part of Kosovo and several other towns.