Stoltenberg: KSF deployment in the north requires prior concurrence of KFOR; Osmani: The north will always be part of Kosovo

Any deployment of special forces requires the concurrence of KFOR and there is a need for coordination and close consultation between the authorities in Pristina and the KFOR commander regarding any deployments that may affect security in Kosovo. We expect consultations for any actions of the KFS, but also for the actions of the Kosovo Police that could affect the security environment, said the NATO Secretary General at a joint conference in Brussels with the president of Kosovo yesterday. Stoltenberg added that KFOR is ready to react, if necessary, while at the same time calling on the parties to avoid using inflammatory rhetoric and fulfill their obligations.

Vjosa Osmani, however, used this opportunity to share a series of accusations against Serbia – from cooperation with Russia, to destabilization and „violation of territorial integrity“ in the north of Kosovo, which „was and will continue to be part of Kosovo,“ according to the Kosovo President. Osmani called on official Belgrade to „do its homework“ before receiving EU money and offered NATO cooperation to bring „Serb organized crime groups“ to justice for the attack on KFOR soldiers, stating that „it is known who ordered the attack“.

The President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani met with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg in NATO headquarters in Brussels yesterday.

After the meeting, they held a joint media conference.

Stoltenberg confirmed that he discussed the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo with Osmani, while at the same time, he highlighted the importance of the presence of the KFOR mission in Kosovo.

He referred to the May 29 incident in front of the municipality of Zvecan, when, according to the latest KFOR data, 93 members of this mission were injured.

He underlined that what happened was unacceptable, and that the individuals who attacked the KFOR soldiers should be held accountable, noting that the Kosovo authorities are carrying out an investigation.

„The stability of the region and the safety of KFOR troops depend on all actors honoring the existing commitments. NATO considers this to be of the highest importance and expects them to be fully met,“ underlined Stoltenberg.

KSF cannot go to the north without concurrence, we are also asking for consultations for KP actions that can affect security

The Secretary General of NATO also reminded of the agreement that prohibits the deployment of the KSF in the north of Kosovo without the approval of KFOR. At the same time, he requested consultations regarding the actions of the Kosovo Police that could affect security.

„In line with Pristina’s commitment from 2013, any deployment of the KSF to the North of Kosovo requires the concurrence of KFOR, and we expect timely and meaningful consultations for any actions of the KSF, Kosovo Police that could impact the security environment,“ Stoltenberg said.

He clarifies that this is not a new condition.

„Any deployment of special forces requires the concurrence of KFOR and there is a need for coordination and close consultation between the authorities in Pristina and the KFOR commander regarding any deployments that may affect security in Kosovo,“ the Secretary-General emphasized.

Stoltenberg said that due to the recent unrest in the North, NATO has deployed hundreds of additional troops, and emphasizes that KFOR is monitoring the situation.

„We stand ready to act as necessary to fulfill our UN mandate. To maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement of all communities in Kosovo,“ he emphasized, stating that the KFOR commander is in close contact with Belgrade and Pristina.

Stoltenberg, on the other hand, welcomed the steps taken by Pristina to lower tensions, including the reduction of the number of special police, but also the plans to hold local elections.

To avoid new tensions, he called on both sides to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and to act with restraint and in line with their commitments.

Stoltenberg once again supported the EU-facilitated dialogue and welcomed the announcement of the meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Brussels on September 14.

„This requires patience, perseverance and compromise,“ he said.

He also pointed out that this is an opportunity for Kosovo to demonstrate that it is „a responsible actor working constructively to the benefit of Euro-Atlantic security“.

Osmani: NATO is our destiny

Kosovo President, Vjosa Osmani, said at a press conference that her arrival in Brussels is a testament to „Kosovo’s strategic orientation“, stating that NATO is „Kosovo’s destiny“.

„We are very much appreciative of NATO’s leadership during this difficult time for our transatlantic community. Allow me to convey the profound appreciation and gratitude of the people of Kosovo and its institutions for the role that NATO has played in saving our lives in 1999 and the role that it is playing today to ensure stability and security in our region,“ said Osmani.

She argued that „Kosovo’s successes“ are also NATO’s successes. However, the president claims that there are those who would like the region to become a „flashpoint” and mentioned Russia’s „malign“ influence.

„Precisely because Kosovo is a historic success of NATO, there are malign forces so determined to challenge and undermine it. We should not let that happen and we should jointly fight them. Kosovo and the region risk becoming flashpoints because of Russia’s malign influences and the destabilization agendas of its proxies,'“ she said.

The north is part of Kosovo and will stay that way

Osmani also alleged that Kosovo is experiencing „repeated illegal foreign interference and constant obstruction of its illegitimate authority and sovereignty in the North of Kosovo“.

„Let me be clear – the North of Kosovo was and will continue to be an integral part of the Republic of Kosovo. We will not allow the north of Kosovo to become a battlefield for achieving the hegemonic ambitions of regional autocrats. Instead, we are committed to further integrating the local communities, upholding their constitutionally guaranteed rights, and offering them socio-economic opportunities to prosper,“ Osmani said.

„The attack on KFOR was organized by Serbian criminal groups, Serbian policemen also participated“

She also addressed the incidents in Zvecan on May 29, stating that she strongly condemned the attack on KFOR members.

Osmani claims that the incident was planned, organized, and executed by „Serb organized crime groups“.

„This is clearly proven by video footage and the investigation by the law enforcement agencies,“ Osmani stated.

She specifies that some of the people who participated in the incident on May 29 were police officers who „came from Serbia.“

„These are members of institutions of Serbia. Not only have they not been suspended from their jobs, but they are not facing any consequences,“ said Osmani.

She emphasizes that on May 29, it was revealed that those who are against Kosovo are also against NATO.

„The attack on NATO soldiers showed that these destructive and malign forces want to attack the values that are the foundation of NATO and Kosovo,“ she said.

At the same time, on behalf of the Kosovo institutions, she expressed her readiness to, in cooperation with NATO, bring to justice the attackers of KFOR soldiers, journalists and policemen in the North.

„Perpetrators must be held to account… If there is impunity for the May 29 attacks on KFOR soldiers and the continued attacks on Kosovo Police and journalists, there is a risk that the perpetrators will see it as our joint weakness and will be emboldened to exploit every opportunity to repeat the violence. This was an attack on NATO and those who ordered it are clearly known,“ said Osmani.

„As the president of Kosovo and on behalf of the institutions of Kosovo, we offer NATO full cooperation in order to bring the perpetrators of those attacks to justice. There must be thorough and swift accountability for these organized crime groups. In this spirit, I will work closely with our security institutions to further deepen and reinforce our relationship with KFOR – our primary security partner.”

At the same time, Osmani thanked the liaison and advisory teams for, as she said, „assisting the Ministry of Defense and the KSF in the successful implementation of the transition plan, which is centered on developing our nation’s army in order to fully comply with NATO standards.“

The 2013 agreement applies only to KSF

Apart from good relations, there is coordination between Kosovo institutions and KFOR, claims Osmani.

„We all have the same goal – peace, security and safety for everyone in Kosovo and the region,“ she said.

Osmani indicated that the 2013 agreement between Pristina and KFOR only focuses on the KSF.

„The Kosovo Police has been exercising its constitutional mandate throughout the territory of Kosovo for more than two decades. It is the most professional police force in the entire region. As a principle of coordination, as president, I insist on coordinating with our allies, not just for the North. We should coordinate and work together with allies for every inch of our territory, the entire region, precisely because of our strategic orientation – Euro-Atlantic integration,“ said Osmani.

In addition, Osmani stated that Kosovo is committed to the advancement of „multi-ethnic police forces“.

On the other hand, she says that pressure from official Belgrade is increasing so that Serbian police officers resign.

She also claims that this type of „interference“ must stop, „if we want the integration to be fruitful and meaningful.“

Kosovo is constructive, Serbia is not, the EU should have a more balanced approach

Speaking about the upcoming meeting between the Prime Minister of Kosovo and the Serbian President in Brussels, Osmani repeated that Kosovo has always been a constructive party in the dialogue – „unfortunately, the only constructive party.“

She expects a „balanced“ approach from the European Union, which, she claims, is „a precondition for the success of the process.“

At the same time, she accuses Serbia of not implementing many agreements agreed within the dialogue.

Osmani emphasizes that Pristina wants the full implementation of this year’s agreement from Brussels and Ohrid, but also notes that Belgrade has already violated some of its articles, mentioning the obligation not to object to Kosovo’s membership to international organizations.

The Kosovo President also says that Serbia is violating part of the agreement on respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty – citing as an example „the kidnapping of three Kosovo policemen on the territory of Kosovo“.

Serbia to do its homework

Osmani also subtly criticized the European Union for its support of Serbia. She says that official Belgrade should do a little „homework“ before receiving this support.

„The European Union money should go hand in hand with the EU values, and that is not the case,“ emphasized the President of Kosovo, and once again accused Serbia of cooperating with Russia and harmonizing its policy with Moscow.

On the other hand, she reminded that Pristina imposed sanctions on Russia and said that it will support Ukraine „until victory and liberation of every inch of its territory“.

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