March 7th, 2010, 16:39
NATO suspends training of Kosovo security force
PRISTINA, Kosovo — NATO is suspending the training of Kosovo’s security troops after a military-style parade that broke the force’s agreement to focus only on civil emergencies, it said Sunday.
The alliance called off its support for the 2,500-strong Kosovo Security Force following the appearance of an armed honor guard at a parade Friday marking the 12th anniversary of the killing of the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian rebel force that fought Serbia in 1998-99.
The parade appearance was “inconsistent with [its] non-military status,” NATO said in a statement. Kosovo’s force was set up last year with a role limited to civil emergencies as part of a plan that allowed Kosovo to secede from Serbia. It replaced a similar force made up mostly of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The alliance, which has pledged to provide training and supply weapons for the force, said the suspension would continue until it received an explanation of the incident, remedial action and guarantees that such incidents would be avoided in the future.
The move is likely to raise tensions at a crucial time: ethnic Albanians are striving to prove that Kosovo is a viable state as they seek more recognition of its contested statehood. Since its declaration of independence in 2008, Kosovo has been recognized as a nation by 65 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union, but Serbia vehemently opposes its independence, and its stance is backed by Russia, as well as Greece and Romania, which are also NATO members.
The formation of the KSF sparked anger among Kosovo’s Serb minority, who claim the force threatens them. They have vowed not to allow it to deploy in Serb areas.
The move also casts doubt on the aims of the tiny force to become a full-fledged army in the future, and comes as NATO prepares for the largest single downsizing of its peacekeeping presence since the end of the war.
The KSF is allowed light weaponry such as hand guns and rifles, but cannot use heavy weapons such as tanks or artillery. Its members were to be trained over time to take up a security role.
A spokesman for Kosovo’s prime minister encouraged both sides to discuss the matter.
NATO also protested the display of its flag at the parade. NATO says it is neutral to Kosovo’s independence.
NATO diplomats have said they plan to reduce their current troop presence from 10,000 to less than 4,000 in 2011.
Serbia has taken the issue of Kosovo’s statehood to the International Court, which is expected to rule on its legality in late spring.
March 7th, 2010 16:39