Joint press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Ms Osmani of Kosovo

(As delivered)

Dr. Osmani, dear Vjosa,

Thank you so much for your warm welcome. It’s always great to be back in Pristina and a pleasure to meet with you again, just short after we met in Brussels not so many weeks ago.

We just had an important discussion on the the security situation in Kosovo and in the region.

In September, we saw a serious outbreak of violence in northern Kosovo.
Raising concerns that widespread conflict could return to the Western Balkans.

And in May, our KFOR troops – as you alluded to already – were attacked, leaving 93 NATO soldiers injured, some seriously.
Some are wounded for life.

Such violent attacks are unacceptable.
Those responsible must be held to account.

NATO responded swiftly.

We have deployed 1,000 additional troops to Kosovo.
We sent heavier armour.
And we have stepped up patrols in the north.

These are prudent steps, ensuring that KFOR continues to fulfil its UN mandate at all times.

We will do what is necessary to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.

Stability in the region depends on all sides choosing diplomacy over violence.
And on honouring existing commitments.

Any deployment of the Kosovo Security Force to the North of Kosovo requires the concurrence of KFOR.
And we expect timely consultations on any action of the Kosovo Security Force or Kosovo Police that could impact regional security.
Decades of hard-won peace must not be jeopardised.

NATO strongly supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
And both sides must engage in good faith.

I welcome the latest proposals for the establishment of the association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.

This would be a key step toward normalisation of the relationship.
And toward lasting peace and prosperity in the region.

So once again, thank you so much for your welcome and for our very constructive and good meeting.

Thank you.

Question: Mr. Secretary, my first question is the act of aggression that we had almost two months ago, in Banjska, is NATO conducting an investigation on this case? And are you concerned that something like that can could be happening again, and what are you doing along with Kosovo Police and other forces maybe to prevent this kind of act of terror to happen again, in Kosovo’s soil? And the second question is, what is the perspective of this country to become one day a NATO member? Is it bleak, really, or is it more hopeful and at least can we expect that by next year, Kosovo can become a PFP member for example? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: A membership in the Partnership for Peace requires unanimous decision by all NATO Allies. This is an issue that has been discussed. I know the aspiration of Kosovo, but as I said, this requires a decision by all NATO Allies and I won’t speculate about when a decision can be taken. On the violence, this is absolutely unacceptable. Both the violence we saw in May, but also of course in September in Banjska, and that’s reason why we have significantly increased our presence with 1000 more troops, which is the largest enforcement of KFOR in Kosovo for at least a decade. And that reflects how seriously we take both incidents, the violence in May and in September. Then of course, NATO is not the law enforcing institution; that’s for the Kosovo Police, it’s for EULEX, and of course, I will raise these issues in my meetings in Serbia tomorrow. So we just expect that those who are responsible for this absolutely unacceptable violence are held to account and that has been NATO’s message, my message since May and then reiterated, of course of the violence in September. And it is important that it has consequences because we need to do whatever we can to ensure that these kinds of violence doesn’t happen again.

Question: [inaudible] from Reuters. Questions for both, do you see any Russian influence in the past weeks regarding the incidence, what’s happened in the north? And is NATO prepared? And are you worried that similar incidents like the one we saw in September could go into a much broader conflict in the whole region?

NATO Secretary General: So NATO has a history. We have a history in this part of Europe since the 1990s. And therefore, we have invested a lot in stability and peace in this region in Kosovo but also in Bosnia and Herzegovnia, in the Western Balkans in general. I also go later on in my trip in the Western Balkans to North Macedonia, where we also helped to prevent violence roughly 20 years ago. So we helped end two brutal ethnic wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. And we also prevented it from happening in North Macedonia. And we are really investing in security in this region, because safety for the people in the region, stability in this region, matters for our security. And therefore of course, we will do what is necessary to ensure that we implement our UN mandate for our presence in Kosovo and that we also support the EUFOR Althea force in Bosnia. I’m just arriving straight from Sarajevo, where I had an important meetings yesterday and today. And we are now actually conducting a review by our military authorities about our military presence in the Western Balkan region that includes Bosnia and Herzegovina but also Kosovo. We have used our reserve force to immediately increase our presence after violence in September. We are now reviewing whether we should have more permanent increase to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control and creates a new violent conflict in Kosovo or in the wider region. So yes, we will do what is necessary. We are currently reviewing adjustments to our presence and we have already implemented immediate increases of NATO presence in the region.

Source: NATO

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