Tension soars as Kosovo prepares to vote on formation of army

By bne IntelliNews December 13, 2018

Tensions are on the rise ahead of the planned vote in the Kosovan parliament on the formation of a Kosovan army on December 14. The move is strongly opposed by Serbia, from which Kosovo declared independence 10 years ago.

Kosovo expects that the country’s army will be officially established on December 14, when the parliament will hold a final vote on the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a regular army. The KSF's main tasks now include conducting crisis response operations in Kosovo and abroad, and civil protection operations.

Meanwhile, soldiers of the Nato-led KFOR peacekeeping mission moved through the north of Kosovo on December 13. The region is populated mainly by Kosovo’s Serb minority, and the KFOR movement was seen by ethnic Serbs as a provocation before the crucial vote.

However, the KFOR mission said in a tweet that the movement is only a regular training activity to keep ready to be rapidly deployed all over Kosovo.

“Convoys moved yesterday towards Prizren and today towards North of Kosovo,” the mission said in a tweet on December 13.

The plans to form army angered Serbia, which has refused to recognise Kosovo, a former Serbian province, as a separate country. The Serbian authorities have repeatedly said that under the UN Resolution 1244, Nato-led KFOR is the only legal military formation in Kosovo.

Recently, KFOR commander Major General Lorenzo D’Addario said that the mission will continue its mandate of creating a secure environment even after the planned formation of the Kosovan army.

Earlier this week the US, which supports Kosovo’s army plan, donated 24 armoured Humvees to Kosovo.

A day before the vote, Kosovan President Hashim Thaci visited KSF soldiers and officially presented the US military vehicles.

Before around 400 KSF soldiers, Thaci said the KSF “is ready for a new mission and role,” according to the president’s statement.

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic has said that the formation of an army by Kosovo will threaten the lives of ethnic Serbs there, as well as peace and stability in the region.

The head of Serbia’s office for Kosovo Marko Djuric talked with the Russian ambassador in Serbia Alexander Chepurin on December 13, saying again that the formation of the Kosovan army is illegal.

“No international act allows any military presence in Kosovo other than KFOR or the Serbian Armed Forces under clearly defined conditions,” Djuric said. Russia has staunchly backed Serbia’s efforts to keep Kosovo out of international organisations.

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