news 12 Jun 12

Kosovo Thanks NATO For Armed Intervention

In her Freedom Day message, Kosovo President said NATO's military intervention 13 years ago had prevented genocide and paved the way towards Kosovo's independence.

Fatmir Aliu

Kosovo’s liberation and independence from Serbia was an historic act, President Atifete Jahjaga said, thanking NATO for its military intervention in the former Serbian province 13 years ago.

In her message for “Freedom Day", which is marked on June 12, the President called for national unity and a free, prosperous and democratic country.

“In this great day for our country, we honour the visionaries of Kosovo’s statehood and our international friends," she said.

"We honour the men and women of NATO, which engaged in an air campaign to prevent genocide against the people of Kosovo," she added.

NATO launched an air campaign in March 1999, aimed at forcing Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia to withdraw its police and military from Kosovo.

Some 78 days later, NATO and Serbia signed an agreement allowing a peacekeeping force to enter the territory, restore law and order and oversee withdrawal of Serbian forces.

The first KFOR soldiers entered Kosovo on June 12 1999, today's “Freedom Day”, after which the UN installed an interim administration, which lasted until March 2008, when the former province formally seceded from Serbia.

Since then 91 countries, including 22 of the 27 EU countries and the US, have recognized Kosovo’s independence. However, Serbia still considers the province its sovereign territory and is backed by Russia and China, among others.

The speaker of the Kosovo Assembly, Jakup Krasniqi, on Monday said the first “Freedom Day” had represented a milestone on the road that had led to independence.

Kosovo’s independence had since produced peace and stability in the region, as it was built on ideas of citizenship, not on people's ethnic background, he noted.

Kosovo obtained international recognition after embracing the plan proposed by former UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, whose detailed proposal on the final status of Kosovo envisaged an internationally-supervised assumption of independence with strong guarantees for ethnic minorities.

By September, Kosovo has signaled it will seek an end to "supervised" independence, after the 25 states known as the International Steering Group agreed that the period of supervision should come to an end.

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