NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Belgrade on Nov. 21 said that outbreaks of violence such as the one in the village of Banjska in North Kosovo was unacceptable, stressing that the perpetrators had to face justice.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Stoltenberg said that NATO “welcomes that Serbia is prepared to cooperate in these efforts” in relation to the clash between an armed group of Serbs and the Kosovo police on Sept. 24.
“In May, our KFOR troops were attacked (in clashes between the local Serbs and KFOR). In September, we saw another outbreak of serious violence in Kosovo. After this outbreak (in Banjska), NATO has deployed an additional 1,000 troops and heavy weaponry in Kosovo. It is the biggest buildup of the NATO contingent in the last decade and demonstrates that NATO is ready to preserve peace,” Stoltenberg stressed.
Stoltenberg, who arrived in Belgrade from Pristina as part of his Western Balkans tour, hailed close coordination between the Serbian Army and KFOR, saying that “it is important for timely exchange of information for to avoid any sort of misunderstanding.”
Stoltenberg once again said he supported creation of an Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, noting that it would be “the key to normalization of relations” between Belgrade and Pristina. “I am calling on Belgrade and Pristina to engage in the EU-brokered Dialogue, it is the only path toward a lasting peace and stability,” the NATO secretary general said.
Stoltenberg also said he had discussed with Vucic the possibility of resuming joint military exercises. He added that NATO “fully respects” Serbia’s armed neutrality, but added he believed that “Serbia, as a neutral country can closely cooperate” with NATO, which, he said, would be beneficial to both sides.