Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say

  • Nato peacekeepers still stationed in Kosovo almost 20 years after the war ended (Photo: Tsui)

Germany and the US have defended Kosovo's "sovereign right" to create an army, despite Serbia's abhorrence of the move.

"Kosovo, as a sovereign state, has the right to create regular armed forces," German foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said in Berlin on Friday (14 December).

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The US embassy in Pristina voiced more full-throated "support for the gradual transition ... to a force with a territorial defence mandate, as is Kosovo's sovereign right".

The US had earlier donated 24 armoured vehicles to Pristina to be used in the army and also said it was "only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country to have a self-defence capability".

They spoke shortly after Kosovo MPs unanimously voted to transform the Kosovo Security Force, a lightly-armed body of 2,500 men and women, into a professional army of 5,000 soldiers.

Kosovo did it despite Serbia's threat to invade, if need be, to protect ethnic Serbs there from the new force.

They also did it amid a row on tariffs on Serb exports, which Kosovo recently raised by 100 percent, targeting Kosovar Serbs who buy goods from Serbia.

Germany and the US urged Kosovo to proceed with caution and both sides to show restraint.

Kosovo should not be "overhasty" and Serbia should not use its army decision as "a pretext for further escalation", the German foreign ministry spokesman said.

"Regional stability requires that Kosovo make genuine efforts to normalise relations with its neighbour Serbia," the US statement added.

But Nato, which has a 4,000-man peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, openly criticised the army move in a rare note of discord in the Western alliance.

"This move is ill-timed" and was "made despite the concerns expressed by Nato," Nato head Jens Stoltenberg said.

"The North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of Nato's engagement with the Kosovo Security Force," he added.

Some Serb officials on Friday spoke of using military force to stop Kosovo from going ahead.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic announced that he would inspect troops along the border with Kosovo for the next three days.

But Serbia's prime minister, Ana Brnabic, spoke in softer terms.

"We [Kosovo and Serbia] should sit down and talk about building a better future," she said, even though "today is not a day that contributes to cooperation and stability in the region".

"We regret the negative reactions in Belgrade," Kosovo's foreign minister, Behgjet Pacolli, said.

"No one should fear a democratic, multi-ethnic and professionally trained armed force under Nato supervision. It's Kosovo's sovereign right and decision to decide on its security architecture," he added.

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