NATO calls for calm over license-plate tension between Kosovo, Serbia

With the “license-plate row” now threatening to destabilize the region, NATO has now made itself heard with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claiming to have told both Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his rival, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to refrain from any moves that would result in military escalation.

”I urged both (sides) to refrain from any unilateral action that can trigger escalation, Stoltenberg stated in a “tweet.”  “Dialogue is the only way forward.”

Reportedly, Stoltenberg made a series of calls to both leaders, but both the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia appeared to point the blame at each other for the current impasse–and with Vucic noting that Kosovo has already gone unilateral.

”I pointed out that Pristina is brutally violating the Brussels Agreement with its unilateral actions,” Vucic stated, as reported by various news sites, including MENAFN. “In spite of this, Serbia is trying to maintain peace and stability and will remain committed to that.”

Kurti meanwhile also called for dialogue, although he called the increased tensions Belgrade’s “feeble attempt” to cause destabilization.

The license-plate issue centers on a move by the Kosovo government to force ethnic Serbs in Kosovo to replace Serbian car registration plates with Kosovo plates. Likewise, Kosovo would like to see a replacement of Serbian IDs with Kosovo documents. While this is in effect the same type of legislation faced by Kosovars in Serbia, Serbia sees the move as tantamount to forcing it to recognize Kosovo independence—which is “off the table” for Vucic and the majority of Serb citizens.

That said, pressure has increased from both the US and the EU to recognize Kosovo statehood. The EU is also attempting to force Serbia to fall in line with EU’s current sanctions and general take on Russia—despite the fact that Serbia has limited options with regard to energy in terms of oil and gas.

And despite calls for dialogue from all sides, there is not doubt that tensions are real. Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo have previously rioted over the license-plate issue, and Serbs have both accused Kosovo of monitoring Serbian territory with drones while also threatening to shoot them down should such monitoring continue.

NATO has also stated that KFOR troops are at the ready in case violence should spin out of control, with Kosovo’s Kurti notably supporting his support of KFOR units.

Photo of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (middle) by he White House – https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/42565255595/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71538722

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