Tear gas halts MP vote on key Kosovo border deal

Tear gas halts MP vote on key Kosovo border deal

The proposed deal is a precondition set by the European Union to give Kosovo's citizens the ability to travel freely inside a European visa-free zone.

Thick smoke had filled parliament and MPs had to evacuate, an AFP correspondent said, but at the fifth time of asking the vote finally went ahead in the evening.

The Self-Determination Movement party used tear gas in the Assembly building when the vote was due to start Wednesday, and all lawmakers had to leave the hall.

Ratification of the border deal with Montenegro is one of the main conditions for Kosovo citizens to get visa free regime within the EU.

The party is firmly opposed to the border deal claiming it would deprive the Balkan nation of several thousand hectares of land.

Speaker Kadri Veseli said five opposition lawmakers involved in setting off the tear gas were barred from taking part in the session when it restarts, while two from the governing coalition were injured by the tear gas.

Previous attempts to ratify the agreement have led to similar protests involving tear gas in the 120-seat parliament and street clashes with police.

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Video from inside the Kosovo Assembly shows the otherworldly scene as Wednesday's parliament vote on a border demarcation deal with Montenegro was intentionally disrupted by the gas.

European Union officials have hailed Kosovo's approval of a long-pending border demarcation deal with Montenegro as "a real achievement".

The attack was condemned by global leaders after it prevented a vote on the issue.

Greg Delawie, the United States ambassador to Kosovo, denounced the incident saying, "Violence as a political tool has no place in Kosovo".

The agreement first was reached in August 2015.

Kosovo, home to some 1.8 million people mostly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008 after a bitter war in 1998-1999.

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