Thursday, July 10, 2008

NATO Chief: Kosovo Partition Not an Option

The territorial partition of Kosovo is unacceptable and not an option, the NATO Secretary General says during a trip to Pristina. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was on his first visit to Kosovo since ethnic Albanian leaders there declared independence from Serbia in February.

Scheffer met Kosovo leaders and officials from the NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, KFOR to discuss the latest developments after Kosovo’s constitution came into force last week. The move saw the transfer of key responsibilities from the United Nations administration to the Pristina government while preparing the ground for the arrival of the European Union’s new law and order mission, EULEX.

Scheffer spoke out against plans by the Serb community who are continuing to defy Pristina authorities in strengthening their parallel government bodies and undercut Kosovo’s independence, adding that the partition of Kosovo is unacceptable.

“Any kind of partition is not an option,” he reiterated, emphasising that KFOR’s mandate is regulated by the United Nations resolution on Kosovo and it will remain to maintain peace and security across Kosovo in the future.

Scheffer also asserted that NATO will be involved in training the new Kosovo Security Force, which will be formed as a substitute to the national army.

“It is in the interest of Kosovo and all Kosovars…to have a Security Force,” he said explaining that it will not be an army but only a security force.

However he admitted that NATO decided to push on with plans to train the future force despite a small number of member states who did not recognise Kosovo’s independence, acknowledging that it is not the mandate of the alliance to recognise states.

NATO, whose troops have been deployed in Kosovo since 1999 after the conflict between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians and Serb military forces, currently has some 15,000 peacekeeping troops on the ground and remains the main security force in Kosovo.

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