Serbs in Mitrovica Tear Down Controversial Wall

Serbs in Kosovo’s ethnically divided city of Mitrovica Sunday tore down a controversial wall that ethnic Albanians say aggravated an already tense situation.

Bulldozers quietly knocked down the 2-meter concrete barrier after talks between the ethnic Albanians and the city’s Serb minority, mediated by the European Union and U.S. diplomats.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the agreement shows both sides were “demonstrating courage and vision by taking down walls and focusing on building bridges.”

Serbs in northern Mitrovica built the wall in December, saying they needed to shore up the land near a bridge across the Ibar river.

The city’s ethnic Albanians regarded the wall as a provocation, especially because Serbia sent a train with the words “Kosovo is Serbia” painted on the side to Kosovo last month. Border guards stopped the train.

Tension between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Mitrovica have been simmering since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia does not recognize an independent Kosovo. The European Union has said both countries must normalize relations if either plans on joining the EU.

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