Thousands of Kosovo Serb women have marched through the streets of Mitrovica to demand an easing of tensions between Belgrade and Pristina – as a dispute over car license plates threatens to spark unrest.
The demonstrators spoke out against fines imposed by the Kosovo authorities for those who refuse to change vehicle registration plates issued by Belgrade, and against the cruelty they say they face daily from the authorities in Pristina.
“We are tired of all this,” said one protester, adding that she wanted to live in peace.
Long-simmering tensions between Serbia and its former province have flared up again in recent weeks over the Kosovo government’s decision to ban Serbian license plates.
Kosovo, which is still not recognized by Serbia, wants about 10,000 Kosovo Serbs whose vehicles have Serbian number plates to be replaced by Republic of Kosovo plates.
The phased plan includes warnings, fines and eventually a driving ban for refusing to switch.
The two sides failed to reach a long-term agreement on the matter, despite mediation from both the European Union and the United States.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, held drawn-out talks on Monday with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, blaming them for their failure to settle the dispute.
About 3,700 NATO peacekeepers remain deployed in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, but some now fear the impasse could lead to sectarian violence between the two communities in the region.
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