Minister pledges to provide alternative routes for citizens living in Serb-majority northern Kosovo after authorities closed various small roads connecting Kosovo to Serbia used by smugglers.
Police block roads allegedly used for smuggling in northern Kosovo on February 24, 2022. Photo: Official Facebook page of Minister Xhelal Svecla
Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla told MPs on Friday that alternative routes will be constructed in the Serb-majority north to enable citizens to move freely, without needing to pass through Serbian territory, while illegal roads used for smuggling remain closed.
“In collaboration with KFOR [the NATO peacekeeping mission] and the Ministry of Local Government … we are planning to construct new roads which do not make it necessary to cross into Serbian territory,” Svecla told the Parliamentary Commission on Security.
Svecla was replying to Slavko Simic, MP from the Belgrade-backed Sprska Lista party, who said the closure of roads in the Serb-majority north by Kosovo police had made local citizens’ lives difficult.
“Due to the police action of [closing] the roads, on February 24 in Leposavic and Zubin Potok, the lives [of residents] have become difficult. There are old people who have difficulty going to the hospital and children going to schools,” Simic said on Friday. He called the closure of the roads an “inhumane gesture against the population” and called for them to be reopened.
Svecla maintained that the roadblocks were constructed to prohibit illegal activities in the area.
Kosovo Serbian language media Kosovo Online reported on Thursday that KFOR had now made the road to the village of Kosutica in the municipality of Leposavic ready for traffic, and had repaired a part of the road to the village of Banje in Zubin Potok a few days ago.
KFOR told Kosovo Online on Friday: “We continue to support the Kosovo Police in preventing smuggling and trafficking activities in northern Kosovo” and “in the period from April 26 to 28, KFOR, in close cooperation with the Kosovo Police and the Ministry of Interior, undertook rehabilitation actions twice near the administrative line [with Serbia]”.
In mid-April, Kosovo police blocked roads in Leposavic and Zubin Potok, bordering Serbia, used for smuggling. In an earlier action in February, police blocked roads that had been used for smuggling in border areas connecting Kosovo with Serbia as well as in the border area with North Macedonia.
Since then, Kosovo border police in the area have come under six attacks that the government has described as acts of terrorism, and for which it has blamed Serbia.
After another attack against the Kosovo police in Zubin Potok, close to the illegal roads used for smuggling, Srpska Lista condemned the attack and called on Kosovo Serbs to “not to fall prey to provocations and allow such incidents to risk peace in the region”.
“This incident aims at destabilizing opportunities, also presenting Serbs as bullies, which does not correspond to the truth,” the party wrote on Facebook.
Source link: balkaninsight.com