KFOR commander “concerned” over north

KFOR Commander Markus Bentler has stated that NATO is very concerned over the situation in northern Kosovo.

“There is no positive development and we call upon all citizens to show restraint from any violent acts,” Bentler said.

He urged arrests of the persons responsible for the explosion during a gathering of Serbs last Friday, who protested against the opening of a Kosovo Albanian government’s office in their midst.

One person died and 11 were wounded in the incident in the northern, predominantly Serb part of the divided town. No Serbs live in the southern, ethnic Albanian part.

Now the KFOR commander says that the NATO-led force was informed about the plans of the Kosovo Albanian government to open its office, but that the international forces had not participated in the making of the decision.

“We are not a part of the political process,” Bentler stressed.

As far as the “parallel” Serbian institutions in northern Kosovo, Bentler said that this was “nothing new”, and that they had been active since 1999.

“We must talk to these people, otherwise, we won’t be talking to anybody,” the German general explained.

According to reports from the Priština-based media, the office in northern Kosovska Mitrovica was envisaged as part of the so-called integration plan, that was put together in order to bring the Serb areas under Priština’s control.

The plan was once again denounced by Belgrade on Monday in New York, when President Boris Tadić spoke at the UN Security Council, during an extraordinary session called at Serbia’s request in the wake of Friday’s deadly incident.

In Priština, in the meanwhile, Kosovo Albanian Prime Minister Hashim Thaci “asked Belgrade to distance itself from inciting violence in Kosovo”, said reports.

“The situation in the north was and remains unacceptable to us,” said Thaci.

He has stated that Priština “would not give up trying to have courts and customs function in northern Kosovo”.

The northern part of the province does not recognize the authority of the government in Priština, and the Serbs living there rejected the unilateral independence declaration made by ethnic Albanians in February 2008.

The Kosovo Albanian government’s interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi, was also heard commenting on the situation today, by saying that the “rule of law and order will be established in Kosovska Mitrovica, despite Belgrade’s attempts to destabilize the situation”.

“Serbia is trying to earn political points by proving that Kosovo in not capable of establishing law and order,” Rexhepi told a Priština-based daily.

“It was in their interest to increase tensions ahead of the decision of the International Court of Justice. We had information that they were interested in such a solution and they used the opening of the Office for Civilian Issues for something like that,” the minister alleged.

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