NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Pristina that the increase in KFOR military strength by 1,000 troops is a sign of the seriousness with which the escalation of violence in recent months in Kosovo is being treated.
After his meeting with Kosovo President Viosa Osmani, Stoltenberg pointed out at a joint press conference that ” NATO’s military mission in Kosovo is to ensure a peaceful environment and freedom of movement for citizens of all national communities.”
Stoltenberg said the alliance was considering a permanent increase in the military presence in Kosovo after violence erupted last September.
Referring to the armed incident of September 24 in the village of Baniska in northern Kosovo, he emphasized the need for all those responsible to be held accountable before justice, something that – as he said – he will also ask of the political leadership of Serbia during his visit to Belgrade tomorrow.
The NATO Secretary General welcomed the positive climate that formed around the draft statute for the establishment of a Community of Municipalities with a Serbian majority .
“Establishing the Community would be a key step towards normalizing relations and towards sustainable peace in the region,” Stoltenberg said.
The president of Kosovo, Viosa Osmani, referred to Russia’s “malign influence” in the region, estimating that Moscow, with the help of Serbia, “is trying to open a new confrontation front with the West in the Balkans.”
Concern over Bosnia Herzegovina’s pro-Russian rhetoric
The NATO chief started a tour of the Western Balkans today. Before Kosovo, he visited Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he expressed concern about the “separatist rhetoric” of the Republika Srpska political leadership and Russia’s growing influence.
Stoltenberg’s visit to the region comes amid warnings from Ukraine that Russia intends to spark conflict between the Western Balkan states.
Tomorrow, the NATO Secretary General will visit Belgrade where he will hold talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. The visit to Skopje will follow on Tuesday afternoon, where he will meet with the political leadership. On Wednesday, Stoltenberg will have a joint meeting in Skopje with all the leaders of the NATO member countries from the region.
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