Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

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Opposition lawmakers throw a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Kosovo's Parliament, has temporarily suspended its session after tear gas disrupted the vote on a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. (AP)
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Kosovo opposition politicians release tear gas in parliament to obstruct a session in Pristina, Kosovo March 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Kosovo police officers wear gas masks as opposition lawmakers cover their faces after releasing a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

PRISTINA: Lawmakers in Kosovo approved a contentious and long-pending border demarcation deal with Montenegro Wednesday despite the opposition's use of tear gas to prevent a vote.
The 120-seat parliament voted 80-11 to endorse the deal, ensuring its passage with the minimum two-thirds support required.
The European Union has set the border agreement as a precondition for Kosovo's citizens to travel without visas in Europe's the Schengen travel zone
Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli said he was hopeful the EU would follow through and let Kosovars enjoy visa-free, as citizens of other Balkan region countries already do.
The opposition Self-Determination party says Kosovo loses 8,200 hectares (20,000 acres) of its territory under the agreement, which was reached in August 2015. The previous government and international experts deny that.
Opposition leader Albin Kurti complained that most of the party's lawmakers were barred from the vote or taken away by police for questioning after the tear gas was set off in the Kosovo Assembly.
"Today, 80 lawmakers joined the treason of President (Hashim) Thaci, joined the violation of Kosovo's Constitution and its territorial integrity," Kurti said.
At least two lawmakers were injured. Amid the chaos, the session failed four consecutive times to call the vote, but Speaker Kadri Veseli insisted it would take place.
"Today, the trauma of the Montenegro border demarcation will end. The vote will be held today," he said.
Police entered parliament and forced out a small group of opposition lawmakers, who had refused to leave since the morning. Eight of them were barred from taking part in the session and seven were taken to a police station for questioning.
It wasn't clear if they were the same lawmakers who were barred from parliament.
Police also searched every person entering the chamber.
The opposition party, now divided into two groups because of internal frictions, has used tear gas and similar tactics to disrupt parliament over the past three years.
The collapse of votes for the border demarcation agreement and another proposal seeking to give more rights to the ethnic Serb minority toppled the previous government and took the country to an early election last year.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said there were enough votes to pass the deal. But the two-thirds threshold required defections from the opposition ranks. One opposition lawmaker joined a governing majority party.
President Hashim Thaci, who signed the deal in 2015 when he was foreign minister, will decree the border agreement as the final step.
Representatives of western powers denounced the use of tear gas and urged the lawmakers to hold the vote in favor of the deal.
"This is really great news. Congratulations Kosovo. Kosovo did the right thing," U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie said after the vote.
Montenegro, which has approved the deal, recognizes Kosovo's 2008 independence from Serbia, which Belgrade still rejects.


Korean summit starts with a handshake, after year of tension

orth Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, poses with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a photo inside the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone. (AP)
Updated 46 min 48 sec ago
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Korean summit starts with a handshake, after year of tension

  • Their hands still clasped, Moon invited the North Korean leader into the South for the first time ever
  • North and South Korean officials conducted three days of on-site rehearsals to map out virtually every move of the leaders’ initial encounter

GOYANG, South Korea: After a year of tensions, the first North-South Korea summit in more than a decade began Friday with a handshake.
Surrounded by bodyguards and other members of his delegation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emerged right on cue from a large building on the northern side of the border in the truce village of Panmunjom, walked down a wide flight of stairs and strolled confidently toward South Korean President Moon Jae-in to begin the historic meeting.
Smiling broadly and exchanging greetings, the two shook hands for a long time, exchanging greetings and looking from outward appearances like old friends.
Moon had awaited Kim’s arrival at “Freedom House,” a building on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone. As soon as he saw Kim come out, he walked to meet him at the border so that their handshake would be at the most symbolic of locations, each leader standing on his side of the military demarcation line that separates North from South.
Their hands still clasped, Moon invited the North Korean leader into the South for the first time ever, just one step over a line marked by an ankle-high strip of concrete.
After he did, Kim, in return, gestured for Moon to step into the North. They both did, and then returned to the South together, hands held.
Kim was then met by South Korean children bearing flowers and a military honor guard before he headed into the summit hall to sign a guestbook, visibly out of breath.
Like everything about Friday’s summit, the handshake and all the atmospherics around it were carefully orchestrated and agreed upon in advance. North and South Korean officials conducted three days of on-site rehearsals to map out virtually every move of the leaders’ initial encounter.
Even so, the moment was a striking contrast to the rising fears of conflict that dominated relations just one year ago, when Kim was test-launching long-range missiles at a record pace and trading crude insults with US President Donald Trump.
It was the second big North-South handshake in as many months — coming after Moon and Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, who accompanied him on Friday, shook hands at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South in February.
That seemingly impromptu moment came as a joint North-South team marched into the Olympic Stadium, part of an effort to use the Games to try to improve relations.
Moon, elated at the sight, turned and shook the hand of Kim’s sister, who was seated right behind him in the VIP box on the first trip to the South ever by a member of the North’s ruling family. The image of the two beaming with pride stood out all the more because US Vice President Mike Pence, representing the White House, sat stone-faced nearby.
Photos of that handshake were top news the next day in both Koreas.
The Koreas have a host of difficult and often seemingly intractable obstacles ahead of them, but no matter the outcome of the summit, they seemed acutely aware that the photos of Kim and Moon’s handshake will be bound for the history books.