The postponement helps calm tensions in northern Kosovo, a day after EU-brokered talks between Belgrade and Pristina fell through.
The Prime Minister of Kosovo, accused by Brussels of truancy talk to resolve an argument over a plan to replace Serbian number plates delayed the plan by two days.
The dispute erupted after Kosovo expressed its views ethnic Serbs would be punished if they did not exchange the plates issued by Serbia for plates issued by Pristina.
The underlying source of tension is Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. The latter does not recognize the move and has encouraged Kosovo’s Serbian minority to remain loyal to Belgrade.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Twitter on Tuesday morning that he had accepted a request from Washington “for a 48-hour postponement of the introduction of fines” for cars with Serbian license plates.
Conversations in Brussels
The delay helped calm tensions in northern Kosovo, a day after European Union-brokered negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina over the potentially explosive plan failed to deliver.
“I am happy to work with the US and EU to find a solution in the next two days,” Kurti tweeted.
The dispute has set alarm bells ringing in the EU, which has sought to normalize ties between Serbia and Kosovo and wants both to refrain from provocative gestures.
The US ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, also expressed concern about the lack of a solution to the license plate queue, which could trigger a regional crisis.
In the latest development this month, Serbs in northern Kosovo have resigned from public institutions in protest of the plan.
Of Kosovo’s minority of 120,000, about 10,000 have a car registration issued by Serbia.
Washington had requested the two-day delay “to allow the EU and the United States to further engage the parties in finding a solution,” Hovenier tweeted.
‘number of conflict’
Police were due to start issuing fines of 150 euros ($155) to cars with Serbian license plates from 8 a.m. (7 a.m. GMT) on Tuesday. A total ban is to come into effect in April 2023.
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell hosted negotiations in Brussels on Monday between Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
Afterwards, Borrell said Vucic had been willing to accept an EU compromise proposal “that could have prevented this risky situation”, but not Kurti.
Vucic returned to Belgrade and said the situation was on the verge of conflict.
“There is tremendous anger among Serbs in northern Kosovo,” he said in a public address. He added that he would ask the latter to “try to keep the peace”.
Borrell urged Pristina not to implement his license plate law and Belgrade not to issue new license plates with the Kosovo city’s initials. He said a cooling-off period would provide time and space for diplomacy to resume.