News 25 Mar 13

Kosovo Praises NATO for 1999 Military Intervention

Pristina’s leaders thanked NATO for launching its bombing campaign 14 years ago to end the Kosovo war, and stressed their hope of gaining membership of the military alliance.

Edona Peci

Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga said that 14 years after the conflict with Serbian forces, Kosovo “is proud and thankful to all NATO’s soldiers and commanders who contributed to the end of genocide against the people of the country”.

“Thanks to the engagement of all citizens, the determination of the society, our country is establishing a just society… a rule-of-law state with clear prospects of integration into the European Union and NATO, and eternal friendship with the United States,” Jahjaga said in a statement on Sunday.

NATO launched its bombing campaign on March 24, 1999 after attempts to secure a peaceful end to the conflict failed during internationally-mediated talks in Rambouillet in France.

The air strikes lasted until June 10, 1999, and ended with Belgrade’s forces pulling out of Kosovo and being replaced by international peacekeepers.

“I am happy to say that 14 years after the NATO bombings, Kosovo is ready to be a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in order to give its contribution to efforts for peace, democracy, the rule of law and human rights,” Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said in a statement.

While NATO’s intervention led to the removal of Serbian forces, the UN mission installed in Kosovo after the bombings also dismantled Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla structures.

Kosovo initially established the Kosovo Protection Corps which existed until January 2009 when the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, was formed.

The KSF is due to have some 2,500 active troops and 800 reservists.

In June this year, NATO is expected to assess the KSF’s operational capacities, and Kosovo officials are optimistic that the alliance will give the green light for the force to be transformed into an army.

More than 5,000 troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force, KFOR, have remained in Kosovo since 1999, when the mission started its operations with some 50,000 troops.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 despite strong opposition from Belgrade.

EU-mediated technical dialogue aimed at normalising relations between Pristina and Belgrade started in March 2011 and talks are currently ongoing.

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