Stoltenberg: The security situation in the Western Balkans remains fragile

2024-01-26 17:01:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

Stoltenberg: The security situation in the Western Balkans remains fragile

The Secretary General of NATO, Jen Stoltenberg, said today in Brussels that the security situation in the Balkans remained fragile. The NATO chief met with Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajic in Brussels and condemned the outbreak of violence in Kosovo last year, saying NATO had reacted quickly by sending an additional 1,000 troops to help KFOR implement its mandate.

The security situation in the Western Balkans remains fragile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday in Brussels after the meeting with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milojko Spajic.

"The outbursts of violence last year in Kosovo were unacceptable. NATO responded quickly, sending 1,000 additional troops and armored vehicles. We are committed to making sure that KFOR continues to fulfill its mandate according to the UN," said Mr. Stoltenberg.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Spajic, whose country joined NATO seven years ago, said Podgorica understands that NATO's presence in the region brings security and stability.

"Montenegro understands that many global developments require constant vigilance that rightly attracts the attention of allies. But we must not forget the region. I emphasize once again the importance of continuing NATO's presence in the region, because this is a strong guarantee of peace and stability. I expect this to be reconfirmed at the next NATO summit in Washington", said Mr. Spajic.

Throughout 2023, there have been several outbreaks of violence in Kosovo. On September 24, Kosovo woke up to the news that a member of the police was killed and at least two others were injured during clashes with an armed group in the north inhabited by a majority of Serbs.

Three members of the group were killed during clashes that lasted almost the entire day, raising concerns about stability in the fragile region. The case is still being investigated, while Belgrade has rejected Pristina's accusations that it is behind this attack.

In May, at least 25 people were injured during clashes between Serbian protesters in Zveçan, in the northern part of Kosovo, and KFOR soldiers. The Italian foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, said that 11 Italian members of KFOR were injured, 3 of them were in serious condition.

The tense situation in Kosovo developed after the Albanian mayors took office in the municipalities of the northern part where most of the inhabitants are Serbs after the local elections that the Serbs boycotted.

After these clashes, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put the army on full combat alert and ordered military units to move closer to the border with Kosovo.

Analysts say that the war in Ukraine has increased Moscow's activity to renew its influence in the Balkans, which it is trying to use to draw attention from its aggression in Ukraine.

The head of NATO also spoke today about Sweden's membership in NATO, a process that has been going on for a year and a half, saying that this would strengthen the military alliance as Russian aggression in Ukraine continues.

He welcomed Turkey's decision to approve Sweden's request, while saying he expects Hungary to do so by the end of next month.

"I am absolutely sure and I have faith in Hungary that the approval of Sweden's membership will be done as soon as the parliament convenes at the end of February," NATO chief Stoltenberg said.

Sweden, along with Finland, abandoned their traditional positions of non-alignment to seek protection under the NATO umbrella, after the Russian aggression in Ukraine in February 2022./ VOA

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