European Western Balkans

Stoltenberg: NATO considering whether to permanently increase military presence in Kosovo

Stoltenberg with Osmani in Pristina; Photo: NATO

PRISTINA – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani in Pristina on Monday to discuss the security situation in Kosovo and the wider region.

During the press conference, Stoltenberg condemned both the outbreak of violence in northern Kosovo in September and the attacks on KFOR troops in May which left 93 injured. He described these attacks as “unacceptable”.

Stoltenberg recalled that following these incidents, NATO has deployed around 1,000 additional troops to Kosovo, sent heavier armor, and stepped up patrols in the north. According to him, these steps will ensure that KFOR has the forces, capabilities and flexibility to fulfill its UN mandate.

“We will do what is necessary to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo”, Stoltenberg said, underlining that stability in the region depends on all sides choosing diplomacy over violence, and honoring existing commitments.

He expressed strong support for the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and welcomed the latest proposals for the establishment of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, saying that “this would be a key step toward normalization of relationship, and toward lasting peace and prosperity in the region”.

Answering the question of the possibility for Kosovo to become a part of the Partnership for Peace program, Stoltenberg said that a unanimous decision from all  NATO members is required.

Stoltenberg mentioned that the Alliance is considering whether to permanently increase its military presence in Kosovo following the outbreak of violence in September.

“We will do what is necessary. Currently, we are considering arrangements regarding our presence”, he said.

During the press conference, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani highlighted that Russian influence in the Western Balkans can be observed from three perspectives.

“Propaganda – supporting Serbia’s stance regarding the destabilization of the region; weapons that Russia sells to Serbia, which Serbia then uses for attacks on Kosovo or other countries; political support that Russia consistently provides to Serbia in these efforts of destabilization”, Osmani stated.

Osmani pointed out that when these three aspects are combined, it becomes very clear that it is in Russia’s interest to open another front against the West. “And, of course, this front wants to open in parts of Europe, that are not yet part of NATO. So, our NATO membership makes this even more imperative”, she concluded.

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