BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani on Thursday to discuss the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo and the importance of NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping mission under its UN mandate.
“I welcome recent steps taken by Pristina to lower tensions, including reducing the number of special police in the north, and plans to facilitate new municipal elections. But it’s essential to avoid further escalation. So I urge all parties to avoid inflammatory rhetoric, and to act with restraint and in line with their commitments”, Stoltenberg said.
During the press conference with Kosovo President, Stoltenberg said that the stability of the region and the safety of KFOR troops depends on all actors honoring their existing commitments. He recalled that KFOR troops were attacked in May this year, when 93 soldiers were injured, some of them seriously. “This is totally unacceptable”, Stoltenberg added.
He mentioned the commitment Kosovo took on a decade ago, pledging not to deploy Kosovo Security Forces in the north without prior consultation and approval from the KFOR commander.
“In line with Pristina’s commitment from 2013, any deployment of the Kosovo Security Force to the North of Kosovo requires the concurrence of KFOR. We expect timely and meaningful consultation on any action of the Kosovo Security Force or Kosovo Police that could impact the security environment. In response to the recent unrest, NATO has deployed hundreds of additional troops to Kosovo”, Stoltenberg said during the press conference.
Answering the journalist’s question, Stoltenberg explained that this is not a new requirement.
“It is the conditions that the NATO’s presence has been based on for a long time. Any deployment of the Special Forces requires concurrence from KFOR and then there is a need for coordination and close consultations between the authorities in Pristina and KFOR for any deployment that may affect our posture and the security in Kosovo”, Stoltenberg said.
He welcomed the next round of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina taking place next week. According to him, dialogue is the “only way to resolve outstanding issues and to reach a solution that respects the rights of all communities”. “This requires patience, perseverance, and compromise”, Stoltenberg added.
While Stoltenberg confirmed support for dialogue and welcomed the upcoming leaders’ meeting scheduled for 14 September in Brussels, the President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani criticized European mediators involved in the negotiation process. She emphasized that Pristina hopes for a balanced approach from the EU.
“A balanced approach by the EU mediators is a precondition for the success of the process. There were times when we didn’t see this balance. So, I would like to call upon all of our partners and Allies to ensure this balance, to ensure a principle of full equality and equal footing of both parties in the process if we want to see sustainable results, and the results that truly contribute to peace and security and stability in the region”, Osmani said.
She said that at this point in time is discussing a sequencing plan for the agreements that were reached in Brussels and Ohrid, adding that Kosovo has been insisting on full implementation of the entire agreement.
“There is not one article that is more important than the other and also have committed to fully implementing are part of the obligations but we should not ignore the fact that Serbia has undertaken concrete obligations in that agreement as well, among which is not objecting to Kosovo’s membership in any international organization, of course, an obligation which it has already violated”, Osmani assessed.
She accused Serbia of continuing with destabilization efforts against the entire region. “They are not only destabilizing the Western Balkans, but they are also putting at risk the values-based system that the European Union and NATO represent”, Osmani concluded.