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Kosovo to tear down wall seen as defiance from ethnic Serbs

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/12/2016

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo's Parliament voted Thursday to demolish a concrete wall erected by the Serb ethnic minority in the northern city of Mitrovica that the government sees as a statement of defiance.

Serbs started to raise the wall earlier this month near a bridge on Ibar River, calling it a technical support barrier against a landslide. The construction was vehemently contested by the Kosovo government.

The European Union and the United States also have opposed building of the wall at a time when Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-brokered talks to reconcile their differences. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade has not recognized.

"I don't think that wall made a positive contribution to bringing people together," U.S. Ambassador to Pristina Greg Delawie said in an interview earlier this week.

Minister Edita Tahiri, who leads the Kosovo delegation at the talks, also reported Thursday that a grenade was thrown at a government office in northern Mitrovica on Wednesday night. She said the grenade did not explode.

Tahiri said she had called a senior EU official asking for mediation and complaining of Serbia's "destructive actions with the use of bombs and walls."

"Serbia's obstructions are being escalated and are endangering the destabilization of the situation," she said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Mitrovica is home to the largest population of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.

Kosovo's 1998-1999 war ended after NATO intervened on behalf of the Albanian majority to end the deportations and ethnic cleansing carried out under then-Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic.

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