NATO Says Ready to Raise Forces if Serbia-Kosovo Tensions Rise | World

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will increase its peacekeeping force in Kosovo if tensions with neighboring Serbia escalate, the alliance’s chief said on Wednesday, on the eve of negotiations brokered by the European Union (EU). ) among its western Balkan neighbours.

“We now have a significant mission, a military presence in Kosovo close to 4,000 troops,” Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who was standing beside him in Brussels.

“If necessary, we will move forces, deploy them where necessary and increase our presence. We have already increased our presence in the north. We are ready to do more.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic — Photo: Johanna Geron/REUTERS

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo escalated this month when the Kosovar government said it would force Serbs living in the north, who are supported by Belgrade and do not recognize Kosovo institutions, to start using license plates issued in Pristina.

The situation calmed down after Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, under pressure from the United States and the European Union, agreed to delay the license plate rule until September 1, and NATO peacekeepers oversaw the removal of the license plates. road blocks established by the Serbs.

However, Vucic told the NATO press conference that talks with Kurti on Thursday, which will be mediated by the EU, will be difficult because the two sides disagree on almost everything.

Stoltenberg meets with Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti in Brussels (Photo: Johanna Geron/REUTERS)

Kurti, who met with Stoltenberg later, underlined Kosovo’s determination to become a member of NATO.

“The threats, risks and challenges that NATO faces in the current security environment are also felt by our country,” he told reporters, linking the problems to Russia’s influence.

Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after a guerrilla revolt against Belgrade’s repressive government.

Location of Serbia and Kosovo — Photo: G1

Serbia still legally considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory. The country denies having caused tensions and conflicts in Kosovo and accuses Pristina of trampling on the rights of Serb minorities. Serbs make up 5% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.

Vucic said Serbia wants to avoid any escalation of the situation, but it is important to understand that there is “a new generation of young people” who see Kosovo as Serbian territory and will “no longer endure terror”.

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