July 25 Action Stopped Kosovo’s Partition, Minister Says

Police action in Serb-run north last July pushed the partition issue off the negotiating table, Kosovo Interior Minister says.Kosovo’s Interior Minister has paid tribute to the police intervention in July 2011 in the Serb-run north, saying it sent a clear message that Pristina will not allow the partition of Kosovo.

Bajram Rexhepi said on Thursday that since July 25, 2011, Kosovo had asserted its authority over the northern border crossings in Jarinje and Bernjak, which NATO peacekeepers in KFOR had controlled since the country seceded from Serbia.“July 25 [2011] was the biggest action since post-1999 war, which has taken off the [negotiating] table speculation about the eventual partition of Kosovo,” Rexhepi asserted.

“Since July 25, our institutions have been present 24 hours a day at the gates,” he added.

“Progress in the north is a process that goes on gradually. You can’t seize full control with one or two actions. It’s a complex process, which needs full implementation of the rule of law,” Rexhepi continued.

The Interior Minister, followed by the Kosovo Police Director Shpend Maxhuni, and other police officers, paid tribute to the police officer who died in the July 2011 action.

The Kosovo government sent special police forces to take control of the two border crossings to enforce sanctions on products made in Serbia, as a reciprocal measure to the ban on the export of goods from Kosovo to Serbia.

But northern Serbs saw the Kosovo Police action as a provocation and major unrest followed.

Police officer Enver Zymberi was killed in a confrontation while his team was pulling back from Jarinje and Brnjak, following an agreement between Pristina, Belgrade and NATO peackeepers in KFOR to calm tensions.

Two days later, a Kosovo Serbian mob torched the border gate in Jarinje and shot at NATO peacekeepers. Six Kosovo Serbs are wanted for Zymberi’s death. None has been arrested.

Since the action, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have remained high. A year on, the situation is largely unchanged, with local Serbs continuing to block major roads in the region.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Since then 89 states, including 22 EU member states and the US, have recognized the country.

But Serbia does not recognise the country and continues to insist that Kosovo is a province of Serbia.

Meanwhile, the north remains under the de-facto control of so-called parallel institutions funded by Belgrade. These include town councils, health authorities, post offices and schools.

According to a Kosovo government report from 2011, Serbian security structures have remained continually present in the north since 1999.

These include men from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, MUP, various other police departments, the State Intelligence service, BIA, the military intelligence service, VBA, and others.

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