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Kosovo turns away Serbian Orthodox Church leader

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Kosovar border guards on Monday denied entry to the leader of the Serbian Orthodox church, religious officials said, as tensions between the long-time rivals continue to mount.

Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porfirije was turned back from the Merdare border crossing, a statement by church authorities said.

The patriarch and seven other senior dignitaries were due to visit Peja in western Kosovo for an annual meeting involving high-ranking church officials this week.

“The decision to ban the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church and bishops from coming to the ancient seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church is unreasonable and unacceptable,” the church said in a statement.

Kosovo’s foreign ministry later confirmed the incident, saying a request for the visit had been rejected.

The ministry cited Serbia’s alleged violations of the landmark Brussels Agreement signed in 2013 agreement between the two sides as a reason for the move.

Porfirije, who was elected as patriarch in 2021, was last denied entry to Kosovo in December 2022.

However, he is a regular visitor to the country and attended the same church meeting last year.

Disputes over religious sites continue to be a major flashpoint between Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo is home to several of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s most revered monasteries and religious sites, with many of the centuries-old churches located in mostly ethnic Albanian towns where Islam now predominates.

The fate of those churches, along with Kosovo’s shrinking Serb minority, has continued to undermine efforts to reach a lasting settlement between the two sides.

Animosity between Kosovo and Serbia has persisted since the war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in the late 1990s that drew a NATO intervention against Belgrade.

Kosovo later declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia has refused to acknowledge.

Kosovo is overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians, but in the northern stretches of the territory near the border with Serbia, ethnic Serbs remain the majority in several municipalities.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have been simmering for months, following the implementation of a new rule that made the euro the only legal currency in Kosovo and effectively outlawed use of the Serbian dinar.

The move sparked anger in Belgrade, which continues to finance a parallel health, education and social security system for Serbs in Kosovo.

The two sides have been holding weekly talks in Brussels aimed at breaking the deadlock over the issue but have failed to hammer out an agreement.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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