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news 22 Oct 13

NATO to Maintain Troop Levels in Kosovo

The NATO-led force in Kosovo, KFOR, will not reduce its numbers while Pristina gears up for crucial local elections at the start of November.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Brussels

“We will maintain the level of force in order to make sure that the [local] elections proceed with security,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said on Monday.

Lungescu said that that the NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, met Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic on the sidelines of the UN Assembly meeting in New York last month, and the Belgrade politician expressed his support for NATO’s role in Kosovo.

There are more than 5,000 KFOR troops in Kosovo, mostly from the US, Italy, Turkey and Germany.

Kosovo will hold local elections on November 3, with Serbs in the north participating for the first time.

Kosovo last held local polls in November 2009, but the vote was boycotted by Serbs in the four northern Serb-run municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, where local leaders were elected in separate votes organised by Belgrade.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, northern Kosovo has been beyond the control of the Pristina government, while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

On April 19, Kosovo and Serbia adopted a 15-point draft agreement on normalising relations, allowing both sides to advance their integration into the European Union.

The draft agreement mainly deals with the future of the Serbian community in Kosovo.

According to article 12 of the agreement, “municipal elections shall be organised in the northern municipalities in 2013 with the facilitation of the OSCE, in accordance with Kosovo law and international standards”.

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