By Fatmir Aliu
Germany says that Kosovo and Serbia must resolve their differences and produce a peaceful solution for the northern part of Kosovo, a scene of recent clashes between NATO peacekeepers and Serb demonstrators.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called upon both Pristina and Belgrade to make concessions and try to find a political solution through dialogue for the volatile north of Kosovo.
“In our direct talks we made it clear what we want. There’s a need to find a solution for free trade, and border cooperation, and we are not interested in having ( Serbia’s) parallel structures in Kosovo,” the German Chancellor said at a press conference at Pristina airport.
Merkel was meeting on Monday afternoon with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his cabinet at Pristina Airport, where she explained what Germany wants from Kosovo.
She said barricades Serbs put up this year to block traffic in northern Kosovo, bordering Serbia, should be removed.
Thirty German and Austrian soldiers were injured earlier this month when hundreds of Serbs resisted an attempt by NATO to remove these roadblocks they had put up there. The violence prompted the European Union on December 9th to postpone Serbia’s bid for the status of candidate for EU membership.
Germany has the biggest military contingent in Kosovo, with some 1,800 soldiers serving in NATO’s K-FOR peacekeeping mission in the former southern Serbian province. The NATO commander there, General Erhard Drews, is German.
“I have spoken with (Serbian President Boris) Tadic to find ways to normalize relations and we would like Kosovo to make its contribution too and continue contacts with Serbia and President Tadic,” Merkel said.
Kosovo is 90% ethnic Albanian and declared independence from Belgrade in 2008. Serbia refuses to recognize it and Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs, who predominate in a small part of the north, effectively continue to function as part of Serbia.
Violence flared in July when Kosovo sent special police units to the northern border to enforce a trade ban with Serbia but were turned back by armed Serbs. NATO troops, mainly German, intervened.
“I think that a huge step has been made, and now it’s the turn of the Kosovo side to give something from itself, to find a peaceful solution for this conflict. By this I mean also open communication with Serbia,” she said, referring to the north of Kosovo.
Prime Minister Thaci guaranteed the German Chancellor that Pristina will do everything it can to meet German expectations.
“I gave assurances to the German Chancellor that Kosovo will fulfill all obligations that come up ahead of us. We know that a European future depends on building up European relations among us in the region,” he said.
“I assured the German Chancellor that Kosovo is determined in its dialogue with Serbia. Dialogue is not one of the options, it is the only option. But it will get its rightful shape only when agreements reached between Pristina and Belgrade are fully implemented. We hope that Serbia will start reflecting on this issue,” Thaci added.
Chancellor Merkel also visited German soldiers injured during the K-FOR military operation in northern Kosovo.