KFOR commander, EULEX official stopped at barricades

NORTHERN KOSOVO -- The night went peacefully in northern Kosovo, without any movement of KFOR troops, while local Serbs continued to man the barricades they put up in the area.


There is no traffic across the two administrative checkpoints in the north, while alternative, smaller roads are being used in order to reach Raška, Ribarić and Novi Pazar.

The new barricade near the Brnjak checkpoint - which the Serbs put up last weekend after another was removed by KFOR - is now over two meters high.

The NATO troops in the meanwhile continue to bring their supplies via helicopters.

Last week Serbs decided to open one lane on major roads in the north of the province, allowing KFOR to supply their outposts in a regular manner, but the force's commander said they would "not use this possibility until other international organizations also enjoy freedom of movement".

Serbs, on the other hand, do not wish to allow members and vehicles of the EU mission, EULEX, to pass through, as they have been transporting customs and police workers of the Kosovo Albanian authorities in Priština to the administrative line.

Serbs, who are a majority north of the Ibar River, recognize neither the authority of the government in Priština, nor the unilateral declaration of independence made by ethnic Albanians three and a half years ago.

Commander turned back

On Monday morning, KFOR Commander Erhard Drews tried to pass through the village of Zupče and get to Brnjak administrative crossing, as part of a convoy accompanied by one EULEX vehicle, but he was forced to go back to southern Kosovska Mitrovica because Serbs on the barricades did not let the EULEX SUV pass.

The KFOR commander was accompanied by EULEX deputy chief and former British ambassador to Priština Andy Sparkes, and the convoy consisted of several KFOR vehicles and one EULEX car.

Serbs were willing to let KFOR vehicles pass, but they denied passage to the vehicle of the EU mission.

Drews had brief talks with deputy mayor of Zubin Potok Srđan Đurović in an attempt to convince the local population to allow passage both to KFOR and EULEX staff.

Đurović said that the EULEX vehicle was denied passage because the EU mission has not distanced itself from the Kosovo interim institutions and started working in a neutral manner.

Đurović told Tanjug that the KFOR commander reiterated his request regarding freedom of movement for all representatives of international missions in Kosovo.

This is a goal we want to see achieved as well, but without the presence of Priština institutions in northern Kosovo, Đurović noted.

Serbs granted passage to three KFOR SUVs in Zupče some time around noon on Monday, but they detained two EULEX vehicles which were then forced to return to southern Kosovska Mitrovica.

Serbs on the barricades decided to grant freedom of movement for KFOR members several days ago and earmarked one lane for their vehicles.

According to previous announcements, KFOR does not want to use this possibility until freedom of movement is granted to all representatives of international mission in Kosovo, including EULEX.