Kosovo approves security force to be turned into army

Decision promts sharp criticism from NATO, UN; Serbia threatens military action

Kosovo's parliament on Friday approved three draft laws on the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) expanding its competences and creating a legal base for its transformation into a regular army with 5,000 troop, plus 3,000 reservists. The three draft laws concern one directly on the Kosovo Security Force, KSF, another on a Ministry of Defence and a third on service in the KSF.

“From this moment, we officially have the army of Kosovo,” the speaker of parliament, Kadri Veseli, stated after the voting.

Even though Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the new army “will never be used against” Belgrade and will instead be its "partner in the partnership for peace process,” Serbia and Russia have signalled on Friday that they will demand an urgent session of the United Nations Security Council.

"Serbia will demand calling an urgent session of the UN Security Council over the most flagrant violation of the UNSC 1244 resolution with the creation of the so called Kosovo Army,” Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said, continuing that the adoption of the laws represents “the most direct threat to the peace and stability in the region as well as to the security of Serb people who live in the Kosovo and Metohija,”

At the same time, Belgrade media reported that President Aleksandar Vucic was inspecting units of the Serbian military “in unknown locations” in the south of Serbia and will threaten military action, with Nikola Selakovic, an adviser to the Serbian president, saying on Saturday that his country could send in troops or declare Kosovo an occupied territory.

In response, Antonio Guterres, UN secretary general, called on “all parties concerned to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could raise tensions”.

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed disapproval regarding the creation of a Kosovar army, which he described as “ill-timed.”

“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO,” said Stoltenberg, warning it could destabilise a region where efforts to ease tensions have been ongoing for decades. “The North Atlantic Council will now have to re-examine the level of Nato’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.”

The US, however, called the new army “historic” and said it supported “Kosovo’s sovereign right” to maintain forces. Germany and UK have also supported Pristina’s move.

“As an sovereign country, Kosovo has the right to create regular armed forces”, said Rainer Breul, spokesman of the German Foreign Ministry. He added that this process should be “inclusive” and “involve” the Serb minority in Kosovo.

Earlier this week British ambassador in Pristina Ruairí O'Connell, for his part, said that official London considers that the interim institutions in Pristina have the right to an army.

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