Tensions flared again between Serbia and Kosovo over license plates. You need to know.

Kosovo last week postponed a decision to implement a ruling that would have required Serbs living in northern Kosovo to apply for car license plates issued by institutions based in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.

After the verdict was announced, tensions arose between local communities and the police, forcing local authorities to erect roadblocks.

Angry protesters in the Serb-majority region parked trucks loaded with gravel and other heavy machinery on the roads leading to the Jaranje and Branjak border crossings. The Kosovo authorities then closed the border crossings.

Angry protesters attacked Albanians passing through the streets, damaging some vehicles. Police say shots were fired in their direction but no one was injured.

The small town of northern Mitrovica, which has a large Serb population, also heard air raid sirens for more than three hours.

Italian peacekeepers were visible in and around Mitrovica on Sunday following protests and roadblocks.

Residents living in northern Kosovo use license plates and documents issued by the Serbian authorities. Most of the people living in northern Kosovo are Serbs with a population of more than 50,000 who refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia 14 years ago.

More than 100 countries, excluding Serbia and Russia, recognize Kosovo’s independence.

After the clash, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Korti said the government would allow a 60-day transitional period for Serbian residents to obtain Kosovo license plates.

The Kosovo government tried to implement the same rule last year but faced protests. The government had stopped this campaign at that time.

The government also announced that all Serbian citizens traveling to Kosovo must obtain an additional document at the border to allow them to enter the country. Belgrade issued a similar order that applies to Kosovars visiting Serbia.

Kosovo consulted the EU and US ambassadors on Sunday evening and decided to delay the implementation of the order by a month after tensions flared. The implementation of the new rule will now start from September 1.

“Welcome the decision to postpone Kosovo’s actions until September 1. It is expected that all obstacles will be removed immediately. Open issues should be resolved through negotiations facilitated by the European Union. And the focus should be on the comprehensive normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, which is essential for their EU integration paths,” said Josep Borrellfonteles, EU foreign policy chief.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the Kosovo authorities of implementing ‘baseless discriminatory laws’.

Tensions remain high between Serbia and Kosovo, and the country’s fragile peace is maintained by a 3,770-strong NATO mission.

(with input from Reuters)

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