Friday, April 29, 2005

UN Strengthens Kosovo Border Controls

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has announced new regulations for border crossings into the province with effect from 1 July. All foreigners entering Kosovo will be required to obtain authorisation to enter and stay. Citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, of which Kosovo is formally a part, will not be affected, however, and neither will UN, NATO and other international officials. Authorisation will be valid for 90 days and can then be renewed. Authorisation will be denied to anyone who 'undermines the purpose and principles' of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which ended the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, or if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person has engaged or will engage in terrorist acts or acts of violence.

Significance: This is the first time that such authorisation requirements to enter Kosovo have been introduced, and they appear to be aimed at preventing Albanian terrorists - or, indeed, any others - from entering as Kosovo enters a particularly sensitive period. UNMIK has blacklisted a shadow Albanian group called the Albanian National Army, which has in the past claimed responsibility for some attacks. Recently there have also been further attacks, including a bomb outside the house of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova. There are also persistent rumours that Kosovo hosts Islamist militants from further afield. These are often dismissed as Serb propaganda, but UNMIK is taking no chances.

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