Updates with NATO official comments
An unnamed great power is launching a demand to withdraw NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) and United Nations Mission (UNMIK) from Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Thursday, adding that he will ask NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to step in.
According to Vučić, the withdrawal of the NATO and UN-led peace-keeping forces from Kosovo “would be an absolute catastrophe” for Serbia.
“I don’t know if they are aware of what that would mean and I am very worried,” he told journalists in Belgrade. Vučić said that the information came from intelligence sources but refused to comment further.
He said that authorities in Priština planned an annual budget of €100 million for the Kosovo military, which is not comparable to what is being spent on the Serbian army.
“That should not scare us. It’s up to us to keep the peace and have a strong military,” the Serbian president added.
Vučić will meet with Stoltenberg in Brussels on Monday, after having attended the summit of Western Balkan presidents on Sunday in Slovenia.
Kosovo Force (KFOR) is a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, which was established in 1999 to ensure stability and prevent violence in the region, based on the UN Security Council 1244 resolution.
But its operational capacity has been decreasing as it is gradually handing over tasks to Kosovo’s local authorities.
Belgrade opposes withdrawing KFOR claiming that Serbs in Kosovo do not trust Kosovo’s local forces as they consist of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members and that ethnic clashes persist.
Former diplomat Zoran Milivojevic commented that the withdrawal of KFOR from Kosovo is not possible without the consent of the United Nations.
“The arrival of former British ambassador Michael Davenport at the head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo is not accidental, and it is a kind of pressure from Western centers of power in achieving their goals and further establishing Kosovo’s statehood,” B92 quoted Milivojevic as saying.
A NATO official commented: “NATO has contributed to the stability of the Western Balkans for many years and remains committed to the region. Our KFOR mission is based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the benefit of all communities living in Kosovo. All decisions in NATO, including regarding KFOR, are taken by consensus by all 30 Allies.”