TIRANA Feb 16 Albania and Croatia have asked
NATO to revise plans for its peace-keeping mission in Kosovo,
arguing that nationalist rhetoric by Serb politicians threatens
to destabilise the region scarred by the 1990s wars.
Relations between Serbia and its former province Kosovo
came under renewed strain since Belgrade sent a train painted
with the slogan "Kosovo is Serbia" to the border and Kosovo
police said it would stop it from entering its territory.
Serbia's president has accused the authorities in Pristina
of wanting to start a war, while his Kosovo counterpart has said
Serbia could use the model of Russia in Crimea to annex the
northern part of Kosovo.
Mimi Kodheli and Damir Krsticevic, defence ministers of
alliance members Albania and Croatia, wrote to NATO
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemning the "nationalistic
rhetoric from Serb politicians and concrete actions on the
The ministers wrote those actions aimed at "encroaching the
sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo and destabilising the
security situation in the Western Balkans", according to a
statement from Kodheli's office.
"Both ministers asked that the Operational Plan of the
peace-keeping mission in Kosovo be revised following the latest
developments there," the Albanian statement added.
The statement did not say what any revision should lead to.
The integration of the western Balkan countries into the EU
and NATO is seen by the two institutions as a way to guarantee
peace in a region still scarred by the wars that followed the
collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
The ministers told Stoltenberg that Albania and Croatia
backed the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force, which is
lightly armed and engages in crisis response, civil protection
and ordnance disposal, into the a fully fledged army.
But to create the army, Kosovo needs support of the Serb
minority in the parliament, whose representatives oppose the
Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999, when NATO bombed it
to halt Serb ethnic cleansing in a counter-insurgency war. NATO
still has around 4,500 troops stationed in Kosovo to keep the
Backed by the U.S. and major western European states, Kosovo
declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90 percent of Kosovo's
1.8 million population. Northern Kosovo is home to a Serb
minority of around 40,000 to 50,000 people who do not consider
Pristina their capital.
(Reporting By Benet Koleka; Additiona reporting by Fatos Bytyci
in PRISTINA; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Tom Heneghan)