KFOR on KSF acquiring Turkish drones: KFOR commander has primary authority for airspace over Kosovo


„Regarding the use of all the categories of drones and the related limitations, including the Bayraktar TB-2, in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 Kosovo Force Commander has the primary authority for airspace over Kosovo,“ KFOR said in a statement, a day after the Kosovo PM announced that the KSF, which he referred to as the Kosovo Army, acquired Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 drones.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced on Sunday that they purchased Barjaktar TB-2 drones from Turkey, but did not specify how many drones were acquired.

„With the commander of the KSF, Lt. Gen. Bashkim Jashari and the Minister of Defense Armend Mehaj, we congratulated the officers who completed the training on the use of drones,“ said Kurti.

KFOR reacted to the news, explaining the procedures for the use of Kosovo’s airspace and calling attention to the fact that it requires the KFOR commander’s authorization.

„The Kosovo upper air space can only be used to overfly Kosovo from one country to another by commercial flights; the lower airspace can be used for specific needs, on a case-by-case basis and under previous authorization by the KFOR Commander,“ KFOR announced.

This mission added that they expect that Kosovo institutions will ensure coordination and comply with existing procedures.

„KFOR continues to support the development of Kosovo Security Forces under their original mandate, including for civil protection operations such as firefighting, explosive ordnance disposal, search & rescue, and response to hazardous material spills.“

KFOR, which Turkey recently joined, renewed cooperation with the Kosovo Security Forces in order to help, as they stated, in civil protection operations.
When it comes to its past relationship with the KSF, after the three laws on the transformation into armed forces were passed in Pristina, despite the disagreement of NATO itself, NATO warned that it would reconsider its engagement with the KSF. For years, the officials of this alliance have repeated that the relationship is still being reviewed and that they are limiting their support to this formation in relation to the original mandate of NATO through the UN, without sharing any other details.

KFOR remains fully focused on ensuring a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo, in accordance with its UN mandate.

Aleksandar Vucic announced last month that the KSF is acquiring Turkish Bayraktar drones.

Despite often portraying Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan as his friend, the Serbian president said on Pink TV that Serbia refused to buy Turkish Bayraktar drones because they were sent to the KSF.

In the meantime, Kurti continues to boast about the results of the so-called transformation period of the KSF into the Kosovo Army.

„In two years in power, we increased the number of soldiers by over 80%, and the army budget by over 100%. Kosovo is now safer than ever and proud!“

On airspace

The airspace over Kosovo has been under the control of KFOR since 1999. Airspace over Kosovo is divided into two parts – areas up to 8,700 meters is the ‘lower layer’, while spaces higher than 8,700 meters waerenhanded over to Hungary for management by KFOR. KFOR also controls the lower airspace, in addition to what they specified today as the conditions for using both areas:

„The Kosovo upper air space can only be used to overfly Kosovo from one country to another by commercial flights; the lower airspace can be used for specific needs, on a case-by-case basis and under previous authorization by the KFOR Commander.“

Nevertheless, the head of NATO talked about opening the lower airspace for traffic two years ago, immediately after Belgrade and Pristina signed letters of intent that envisage the establishment of a direct airline between Pristina and Belgrade.

„There is a process facilitated by NATO that addresses this issue. I hope we will find ways to agree on the reopening of low airspace and thus enable direct air traffic between Belgrade and Pristina,“ Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels at the time.

Soon after that, in February of 2020, the then commander of KFOR, Major General Michele Risi and Arnor Sigurjonsson, Director General of the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, signed a framework agreement related to the management of the lower airspace over Kosovo.

Even at the time it was emphasized that in accordance with the resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council and the Military-Technical Agreement from 1999, the KFOR commander retains the authority to secure the lower airspace over Kosovo, which is closed to civilian air traffic, except for flights to Pristina Airport. Since then, Iceland had the task to „help KFOR by providing assistance in efforts to normalize the lower airspace over Kosovo“.

„The finalization of this agreement is an important step in the process to establish all of the necessary conditions for the opening of new routes in the lower airspace of Kosovo, in a safely and orderly manner. It will also contribute to the ongoing efforts to promote the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, within the framework of the EU-sponsored dialogue,“ said KFOR at the time.

The upper air space above Kosovo, or above 8,700 meters, was opened in early March 2014 for civilian flights, and in November of the following year, the air safety zone, which stretches 25 kilometers from the administrative line of Kosovo into Serbia proper, was abolished, which was agreed with the Military-Technical agreement from 1999, when NATO welcomed Serbia’s „engagement and commitment“ to the reopening of the lower space.

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