Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says minority Serbs will end protests in northern Kosovo while a Serbian official says US, EU have assured Belgrade that Pristina will not arrest those who protested or erected barricades in the restive area.

Pedestrians walk past a new road barricade set up in the divided town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.
Pedestrians walk past a new road barricade set up in the divided town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. (AFP)

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo who have been blocking roads for the past 19 days in a protest against the arrest of a former policeman will start removing barricades on Thursday morning, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said.

"It is a long process. It will take a while," Vucic said after meeting ethnic Serbs from northern Kosovo in the Serbian town of Raska on Wednesday evening. 

Dejan Pantic, the former policeman whose arrest triggered violent protests by Kosovo's Serb minority, was released from custody and put under house arrest after a request from the prosecutors' office on Wednesday. 

There was no immediate comment from Pristina. 

US, EU mediation 

Earlier, Serbia said it was assured by the US and EU that there will be no arrests.

"We have received guarantees from the United States and European Union that none of the Serbs in Kosovo who participated in protests and who took part in barricades will be prosecuted or arrested," said Petar Petkovic, head of Serbia's government office for Kosovo, in a press briefing on Wednesday.

"At the moment, we have managed to preserve peace when we were on the verge of a serious conflict and bloodshed."

The United States and European Union are mediating talks to resolve outstanding bilateral issues.

"We also received guarantees that Kosovo Security Forces will not come to Serb majority north of Kosovo without consent of KFOR commander and representatives of the local population," Petkovic said, referring to the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.

READ MORE: Kosovo accuses Serbia of trying to destabilise smallest country in Balkans

Tensions in Balkans

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have escalated since the December 10 detention of Pantic on suspicion of attacking election officials.

Protesting Pantic's arrest, Kosovo's Serbs have erected barricades at border crossings. 

Two new barricades were set up after Kosovar authorities blocked Serbian Patriarch Porfirije from entering the country ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia and ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo have refused to recognise that, and their car licence plates are still being issued by Serbia.

The EU, NATO and the US have called for de-escalation and the removal of barricades in northern Kosovo, while Serbia has requested to deploy its army and police based on a UN resolution.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies