Merkel urges start of joint Serb-Kosovo border controls
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called on Pristina and Belgrade to start joint border controls as agreed to quell the unrest in Serb-majority northern Kosovo.
"(In northern Kosovo) we need to find smart ways of dealing with each other, joint border controls can be such a way," Merkel said during a snap visit to the territory to meet prime minister Hashim Thaci and German troops serving with the NATO-led KFOR force there.
"It is important that the joint border controls are implemented," she said, urging the majority ethnic Albanian goverment in Pristina also to fulfil its obligations under the deal.
Two weeks ago EU leaders delayed a decision on whether to grant Serbia candidacy status until March. Germany especially stressed that Belgrade needs to improve its relations with Kosovo before it can become a candidate to join the bloc.
"We made clear in direct talks with Serbia what we want, the need to come to a regulation of the traffic of goods which is currently not possible because of the barricades," Merkel said.
Kosovo Serbs have been maintaining around 15 roadblocks on roads leading to two disputed crossings to Serbia in northern Kosovo. They are protesting against the presence of ethnic Albanian customs and police officials there.
Violent clashes of Serb protesters and NATO-led KFOR troops have left several German and Austrian soldiers wounded in the last few months.
Merkel also repeated that Berlin wants Serbia's parallel structures in the north of Kosovo-- like municipalities, courts and schools -- gone.
"We need to step by step reach a point where there are no more parallel structures," the chancellor said.
Mainly ethnic Albanian Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has so far been recognised by 83 countries, including most EU nations, despite strong opposition from Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Serbs.
"I believe that the independence of Kosovo was a huge step forward and now it is important that (Pristina) acts responsibly, does not stir up emotions but contributes to a peaceful solution of all conflicts," Merkel urged.
Kosovo premier Thaci told the joint press conference that continuing the dialogue with Belgrade "is the only option".
"At the same time this dialogue will only have real value when the agreements we have already reached are implemented. We hope that Serbia will move to do that," Thaci said.
© 2011 AFP