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NATO moves to calm Kosovar-Serb border tensions

NATO is sending hundreds of reinforcements to bolster its peacekeeping forces after border violence has flared between Kosovo and Serbia.

A Kosovo Serb orthodox priest conducts a religious service near the barricades in the village of Zupce near the town of Zubin Potok on August 1. Serbs vowed to press on with roadblocks and stop NATO's KFOR peacekeeping force from proceeding until Kosovo agrees not to station its police and customs officers at the sensitive border posts.

Marko Djurica/Reuters

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NATO is sending several hundred German and Austrian troops to Kosovo to buttress peacekeeping forces there after border violence left a Kosovar policeman dead and inflamed tensions with Serbia.

Fighting erupted after Kosovar special police units in armored cars – operating at night late last month – swept into two border control stations to assert a ban on Serb products. Now, European Union officials are calling for calm and NATO has reinforced its peacekeepers.

While the immediate issue appears to be foot-dragging by Serbia on trade reciprocity, for Kosovars the underlying issue is the existential question of whether Belgrade, Serbia's capital, is angling to gain control of the already-partitioned Serb-majority northern chunk of Kosovo.

The position in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, is that their independence is not viable without the borders recognized by 77 states, 22 of which are European Union members. Serbia views the Kosovo region north of the Ibar river, a stronghold of Serb hard-line enclaves, as irreconcilable with the Albanian-majority government of Pristina; it does not recognize Kosovo.

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