Home Politics British troops patrol Kosovo-Serbia border as tensions remain high

British troops patrol Kosovo-Serbia border as tensions remain high

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JARINJE, Kosovo, Nov 25 (Reuters) – British troops are patrolling the Kosovo-Serbia border as part of a strengthened NATO peacekeeping presence, amid fears that former war enemies resume open conflict after a series of violent incidents in recent months.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization sent hundreds of additional forces into Kosovo from Britain and Romania after a battle between authorities and armed Serbs holed up in a monastery turned a quiet village in northern Kosovo into a war zone on September 24.

A police officer and three armed men were killed in the village of Banjska in what was seen as the worst violence since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Kosovo has accused Serbia of providing financial and practical support to the gunmen, which Belgrade denies.

NATO sent an additional 1,000 troops to the region, increasing its presence to 4,500 peacekeepers from 27 countries.

British soldiers are now deployed in 18-hour shifts in freezing conditions to ensure no weapons or armed groups enter Kosovo.

“Currently we are here on a routine patrol, which involves understanding lifestyles, obtaining intelligence on any illegal or suspicious activity, which is then passed to KFOR (NATO mission) and higher levels ” British Army Lt. Joss Gaddie told Reuters. on the border with Serbia.

During a visit to the Western Balkans on Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization was exploring the possibility of a more effective approach. permanent increase A reinforcement of forces was necessary “to ensure that the situation did not spiral out of control and create a new violent conflict in Kosovo or the wider region”.

Kosovo, with an Albanian majority, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and NATO intervention in 1999.

About five percent of Kosovo’s population is ethnic Serbs, half of whom live in the north and refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence and consider Belgrade its capital. They have often clashed with Kosovo police and international peacekeeping forces.

For more than two decades, many ethnic Serbs have refused to register vehicles with Kosovo license plates, instead using their own system, considered illegal by Pristina.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government has set a December 1 deadline for around 10,000 motorists to register their cars with a Kosovo number or face heavy penalties. A similar demand sparked violence last year.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Mike Harrison

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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