Prishtina, Kosovo | 12 No 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Kosovo’s parliament has voted unanimously to transform its national security force FSK into a national army with US backing, prompting anger from Serbia and concerns from NATO.
However the United States and neighboring Albania have supported the move which further consolidates the control of Prishtina over the territory of Kosovo, which Serbia still refuses to recognize as an independent state.
107 out of 120 MPs in Kosovo’s Parliament voted unanimously in favor of the new army while ethnic Serbian political groups boycotted the vote, calling on their people not to recognize the new army.
The vote will see around 4000 troops of the Kosovo Security Force transform into a small army, eventually growing into 5000 permanent troops and several thousand reserve soldiers over the next few years.
A symbolic ceremony with Kosovo’s troops was attended by Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi wearing a military jacket as the army’s commander, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and Parliament Speaker Kadri Veseli. All three used to hold top leading positions at the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) more than a decade ago, which led the independence resistance movement against Yugoslavia’s infamous President Slobodan Milosevic and his ruthless paramilitary campaign on ethnic Albanians in the area.
Responding to NATO and EU concerns, President Thaçi said the new army will be a “multi-ethnic force serving all regardless of religion or ethnicity”.
PM Haradinaj added that “the army will never turn against any one,” and that his wish was that one day they will be serving for peace together with Serbia’s army in the region.
The United States praised the vote and called on the Government of Kosovo to continue its close coordination with NATO allies and partners and to engage in outreach to minority communities now and throughout the years-long process ahead.
“The United States reaffirms its support for the gradual transition of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) to a force with a territorial defense mandate, as is Kosovo’s sovereign right. The vote in the Assembly today is the first step in developing this capability” – read a statement by the US Embassy in Prishtina.
However, the move has angered neighboring Serbia which still considers Kosovo its own province.
“The decision is an act against peace and an act of political aggression against our country, which aims to round off the process of the violent separation of a part of the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and the creation of an Albanian independent state, the so-called ‘Republic of Kosovo’,” – said Marko Djuric who oversees Kosovo on behalf of the Serbian government.
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic condemned the decision as unlawful.
“There is nothing in international law to grant them the right to form an army. Everything Pristina does – is done with the support of the United States and Great Britain”, – said Vucic, who later added that Serbia has been “pushed to the edge” and now has no choice but to “defend itself”.
NATO, which still is responsible for around 4000 international troops in Kosovo since its military offensive against Belgrade in 1998, has expressed concerns about the move.
“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO,” the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday, adding that the North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.
However, Kosovo’s decision to establish its own army has been hailed as historic by Albania’s political spectrum.
Tirana has praised the decision as the fruit of years of contribution from all political forces and the people of Kosovo, in their legitimate right of a sovereign and independent country.
“We support the Government of Kosovo in ensuring that the transformation of the Security Force is done gradually, in cooperation with NATO allies and to be all-inclusive”, – said a statement from the Albanian Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama congratulated Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi through a photo on Twitter while Albanian President Ilir Meta said the historic decision to create its own armed forces is proof that “Kosovo is capable to take new responsibilities in building democratic institutions and to contribute towards peace, stability and good neighborly relations in the region”.
Enraged at the decision to go ahead with its own army, Serbian Foreign Minister and First Deputy PM Ivica Dacic said Serbia will ask for the UN Security Council to meet urgently because of the crudest violation of its Resolution 1244.
“That is the most direct threat to peace and stability in the region, and to security of the Serb people who live in Kosovo and Metohija,” Dacic told Tanjug.
However, there was no official statement from the Serbian Foreign Ministry, suggesting its politicians are issuing statements for internal consumption only.
Belgrade and Prishtina are involved in ongoing but currently stalled EU mediated talks to sort out their differences, while Serbia is under international pressure to recognize its former province as an independent country before it can consider joining the European Union.
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