(Bloomberg) -- Kosovo agreed to postpone by 30 days its plan to make government-issued ID cards and car plates mandatory for all residents after members of its restive Serb minority blockaded roads in protest.
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, said the planned action will begin on Sept. 1 instead of Monday. Kosovo Force, the NATO-led peace mission deployed in the former province, said it was “prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardized.”
“All barricades will be removed and full freedom of movement will be established on all roads in the north of Kosovo,” the Kosovo government said in an email, as it blamed Serbian authorities of instigating the unrest.
Kosovo Premier Albin Kurti has insisted that rules must be respected by all residents, including members of the Serb minority who want to keep ties with the government in Belgrade and retain documents issued by Serbia. There are more than 100,000 Serbs living in Kosovo, which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population of 1.8 million.
The former Serbian province declared independence almost a decade after North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing halted a 1998-99 war campaign by Serbian troops against Kosovo Albanian separatists. The NATO-led peacekeeping mission remains deployed in the tense territory.
Both aspiring to join the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo have made little progress in their EU-brokered talks to mend ties, a key condition to qualify for potential membership in the bloc. Russia and China have sided with Serbia in challenging Kosovo’s sovereignty and preventing it from joining the United Nations.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed Kurti, an ethnic Albanian, for the latest escalation, claiming his move on personal documents is “another step toward the expulsion of the Serb population from Kosovo, and the displacement of Kosovo Serb institutions that ensure the protection of the rights of Serbian residents.”
EU envoy for the Balkan dispute, Miroslav Lajcak, welcomed the postponement, saying it will give time for all sides to reconvene for more talks.
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