Amid mounting tensions and the detention of three Kosovo police officers by Serbia, NATO emphasized the resolute dedication of its KFOR peacekeeping force to its responsibilities in Kosovo.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu stated, “The unwavering commitment of NATO KFOR to fulfill its mandate is evident through the recent deployment of an additional 500 troops.”
In a tweet, she reminded all parties of their obligations to KFOR, including adherence to the Administrative Boundary Line, Kosovo Police procedures, and the 2013 Agreement on the deployment of the Kosovo Security Forces in the northern region.
With the recent arrival of a Turkish battalion of 500 reinforcements in response to clashes with ethnic Serb protesters in late May that resulted in injuries to 30 peacekeepers, NATO’s KFOR strength now exceeds 4,000 troops. Additionally, an extra NATO battalion remains on standby for deployment to Kosovo, if necessary.
The detention of the three Kosovo police officers by Serbia has sparked a controversy, with Kosovo’s government condemning it as a kidnapping and imposing a ban on Serbian trucks entering its territory as a “security measure.”
The United States has strongly urged Serbia to release the detained officers, while both Washington and Brussels have called for de-escalation of the tensions.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has requested a meeting in Brussels between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti in the coming days to find ways to alleviate the situation.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following a NATO military intervention against Serbian forces in 1999 after an uprising by the ethnic Albanian majority. However, Serbia, along with its allies Beijing and Moscow, continues to reject Kosovo’s independence, effectively blocking its recognition at the United Nations.
The Serb population in Kosovo, particularly in the northern region where they form the majority, remains loyal to Belgrade and opposes any attempts by Pristina to consolidate control over the area.
In the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs staged protests against the arrest of an alleged Serb paramilitary leader. Meanwhile, KFOR expressed uncertainty about the precise location of the arrest of the Kosovo police officers, whether it occurred on the territory of Kosovo or Serbia. The peacekeeping force urged both parties to refrain from provocative rhetoric and avoid any unilateral actions that could further escalate tensions in the region.
Sources: Agence France-Presse/SGP