Serbia ‘hopes’ it won’t need to use army against Kosovo, says PM

Soldiers of NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR take a break by the side of the road in the village of Kosterc, Kosovo. Serbia’s prime minister warned that the formation of a Kosovo army could trigger Serbia’s armed intervention in it’s former province. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Serbia ‘hopes’ it won’t need to use army against Kosovo, says PM

  • Kosovo, a former Serbian province that broke away in a guerilla war, is expected to vote next week on whether to transform its lightly-armed emergency force into a national army
  • The plans to create its own military force have enraged Serbia, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence declaration

BELGRADE: Serbia’s Prime Minister said Wednesday she “hoped” Belgrade would not have to resort to war in response to Kosovo’s moves to create its own army, in the latest fiery salvo between the neighbors.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province that broke away in a guerilla war, is expected to vote next week on whether to transform its lightly-armed emergency force into a national army.
Since the end of the 1998-99 war that effectively cleaved it from Belgrade, Kosovo has relied on NATO-led forces to ensure security.
The plans to create its own military force have enraged Serbia, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence declaration.
“I hope that we will never have to use our army, but at this moment it is one of the options on the table,” Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told reporters.
NATO also weighed in from Brussels, with its chief Jens Stoltenberg warning Kosovo the move was “ill-timed” and may carry “serious repercussions.”
A day earlier Serbia’s president Aleksander Vucic accused Pristina of trying to “drive out” Kosovo’s 120,000 Serb community, which is concentrated in the north, with its army plans.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj responded Wednesday saying it was a “pure lie” that the army would be directed in the Serb-dominated north, which has never fully submitted to Pristina’s authority.
“The army will not be for the north of Kosovo... The army will be used to help NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.
More than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the 1998-1999 independence war, which ended when a NATO bombing forced Serb troops to withdraw from Kosovo.
The neighbors have never normalized relations and tensions have been running especially high since Pristina slapped Serbian goods with a 100 percent tariff last month.
Pristina said it was revenge for Belgrade’s efforts to undermine Kosovo on the world stage by shutting it out of global organizations.
According to Kosovo customs spokesman Adriatik Stavileci, the tariff has reduced border trade significantly.
Only 48 trucks from Serbia and Bosnia have entered over the past two weeks, compared to 100 daily before the tariff, he said.
Although Serbia is Kosovo’s biggest regional trading partner, so far for there has been no significant shortage of goods or price surges.
Supply stocks, imports from Albania and Macedonia, but also smuggling across the border are helping keep shelves full, according to experts.


Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

Updated 40 min 32 sec ago
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Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

  • Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil

JAKARTA: Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and EU to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over legislation that will phase out palm oil manufacturing in the region, risking jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.
“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.
“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.
Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.
Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.
“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.
Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.
“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.
Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.
On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.
“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.
“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.