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EU police to secure Kosovo border after Serbs block roads

Helicopters are transporting EU police, customs officers and supplies to Kosovo-Serbia border a day after ethnic Serbs blocked roads.

Kosovo border 09 16 2011Enlarge
French KFOR soldiers guard the border crossing between Serbia and northern Kosovo at Brnjak on September 16, 2011. Kosovo and EU police were deployed at two disputed border crossings with Serbia in a move that raised fears of a fresh wave of ethnic violence in a tense Balkan region. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Helicopters are ferrying in EU police and supplies to Kosovo-Serbia border crossings Friday after minority ethnic Serbs blocked roads to prevent Kosovan police from entering the area.

Serbs are angry over Kosvo's efforts to take over customs posts, the Associated Press reports from Pristina. On Thursday, they dumped truckloads of earth and rocks to block at least two crossing gates between Kosovo and Serbia, the AP says.

The European Union says it wants to restart trade between the two former foes. Tensions in the area have been fraught since violent border disputes in July that left a police officer dead, and followed an attempt by Kosovo authorities to enforce a trade ban on Serbian goods, the AP says.

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NATO peacekeepers led by KFOR took over control of border crossings under a temporary deal.

Now, EU customs officers and police will take over operations at the border in an attempt to ease tensions on both sides, the BBC says.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, and efforts by Kosovo to establish its territory through customs officers have been seen by Serbia as attempts to undermine its claim over the territory, the AP says.

Nicholas Hawton, spokesman for the EU's rule of law enforcement mission, EULEX, confirmed that "people and provisions" were being transported in and out of the area of the two border crossings, the BBC reports.

"The process of implementing the operational plan has successfully begun this morning," Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced, according to Radio Free Europe. "Kosovo customs officers and police, together with EULEX and [NATO's] KFOR, are now at both border crossings."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/110916/pristina-kosovo-serbia-border-serbs-blockades-eu