Serbian, Kosovar Leaders To Address UN Security Council About Kosovo's Army
By RFE/RL December 17, 2018
The Serbian and Kosovar presidents are expected to address the UN Security Council on December 17 following Kosovo's decision to transform its lightly armed security force into a full-fledged army -- a move that has angered Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and Belgrade.
Serbia lost control over its Kosovo province in 1999 after NATO launched air strikes to stop the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces during a two-year counterinsurgency war.
Nearly two decades after the end of the conflict, the landlocked territory of 1.8 million people is still guarded by NATO troops.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia does not.
Speaking to reporters at the Pristina airport on December 16, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci said that "the formation of the Kosovo army is an irreversible act."
Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Belgrade will insist at the Security Council session that the army was formed in violation of the resolution that ended the fighting in Kosovo in 1999.
"It is important that the position of Serbia will be heard," he added.
Kosovo's parliament on December 14 voted overwhelmingly to convert its 2,500-member Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a national army with some 5,000 personnel and more substantial weaponry.
Serbia and most of the 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo have vehemently opposed the creation of a Kosovar military, saying it would violate UN resolutions and be used against the Serbian minority -- a claim denied by officials in Pristina.
Some leaders in Belgrade have suggested that Serbia could use its own military to respond to the "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs.
The United States has expressed support for Kosovo's move to create a national army, while NATO said the move was "ill-timed."
The EU members of the UN Security Council issued a joint statement on December 17 calling on the Kosovar authorities to "make the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force in the next 10 years a transparent and inclusive process" and to "avoid any detrimental impact to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina."
The statement also calls on both Pristina and Belgrade to "take steps to exercise restraint and to lower the tensions and create the conditions to resume as soon as possible their dialogue."
"A binding agreement addressing all issues should remain the key priority," it insisted.
Both Kosovo and Serbia have been told they must resolve their differences in order to make progress toward EU membership, but EU-sponsored normalization talks have been stop-and-go in recent months.
With reporting by AP and N1
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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