BRUSSELS, September 28 –In a statement published on Friday, NATO expressed their deep concern about the increasing tensions in north of Kosovo, adding that the KFOR mission maintains a visible and agile presence across Kosovo.
It is added that NATO “authorized additional forces to address the current situation in Kosovo. NATO did not specify how many additional forces from which countries will be engaged.
“We will always take all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people living in Kosovo. We do so impartially and in line with our UN mandate. Since May, we have enhanced KFOR’s presence and posture. Only yesterday the North Atlantic Council authorized additional forces to address the current situation, the statement said.
NATO called on all parties to urgently de-escalate a situation.
“We continue to urge Belgrade and Pristina to engage in the EU-facilitated dialogue, as the only way to resolve outstanding issues and reach solutions that respect the rights of all communities. This is key for lasting security in Kosovo and stability in the region”.
NATO has been carrying out its mission in Kosovo for almost 24 years now. KFOR currently has 3,735 soldiers from 27 countries around the world stationed in Kosovo. Ukrainian troops have been called back after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, so they are no longer part of the mission. Initially, KFOR consisted of about 50,000 men and women from NATO member, partner, and non-partner countries under unified command and control. By early 2002, KFOR had been reduced to about 39,000 personnel. The improved security environment allowed NATO to reduce KFOR’s troop level to 26,000 in June 2003, then to 17,500 by the end of 2003, and today to about 3,800”.
In May, due to tensions in the north, the NATO-led KFOR mission increased its presence in the four municipalities of northern Kosovo, following the latest developments in the area.
KFOR Commander Major General Angelo Michele Risticcia stated on Friday that there is no military solution to the situation in Kosovo, emphasizing the necessity of achieving normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
He said that what happened over the weekend was not a turning point but an evolution in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia.
“I want to be optimistic and I believe that what has happened can make the parties think more wisely. If that doesn’t happen, KFOR will engage more”, Ristuccia said, adding that the situation in the north is currently calmer but still “deeply unstable”.
When asked if it’s possible for KFOR to replace the Kosovo police in areas with the highest tensions, Risticcia said that it’s a political decision made in coordination with NATO.
Regarding the conflict between Kosovo Serbs and the Kosovo police in May of this year, he said that the Pristina authorities ignored KFOR’s advice, and his personnel ultimately paid the price for it. He added that the Pristina authorities had given an assessment at that time that was not in line with the mission’s expectations.
“We felt the consequences on May 29th. Kosovo Serbs attacked us, but there were also elections that did not allow for stability a priori,” Ristuccia concluded.