WASHINGTON — The U.S. Helsinki Commission responded to reports of an armed attack, apparently by Serb hardliners, on a border crossing gate in northern Kosovo yesterday by calling on all parties to refrain from any further violence or provocation. The attack is the latest of several destabilizing actions since last week’s postponement of the next scheduled round of the EU-facilitated Dialogue between the Serbian and Kosovo governments. Other actions included the partially successful effort of Kosovo officials to enforce an embargo on Serbian goods at border crossings in the Serb-controlled areas of northern Kosovo; Serbia has enforced a similar embargo on Kosovo goods since 2008. The purpose of the Dialogue is to produce agreement that will improve the free movement of goods between the two.
U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) said, “Following the Kosovo government’s actions to enforce its embargo, and efforts by KFOR peacekeepers to resolve differences on the ground, Serb hardliners launched an armed attack that included the burning of one of the border facilities, and reportedly threatened non-Serb neighborhoods in northern Kosovo. These acts of violence can threaten the lives of all ethnic groups and have no place in the quest for a just and lasting reconciliation in Kosovo. Particularly in Kosovo, where members of all ethnic groups have suffered so much from violence, any and all acts and threats of violence must be monitored closely by peacekeepers. I welcome the quick response of KFOR forces thus far as they seek to put an end to this confrontation.”
“Earlier this month in Belgrade, the message I heard from Serbian officials about the Dialogue was positive, but these recent events demonstrate just how delicate the situation really is,” added Senator Ben Cardin (MD), U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman. “Both parties must return to the negotiating table immediately and work out their differences there. Fomenting a violent confrontation is not the way to find agreement, nor is it the way to build trust or ease the many burdens the people in this part of Kosovo already face.”