In hopes of smoothing the relations between Pristina and Belgrade in carrying out the Brussels agreement, KFOR and Serbian Army officials are discussing co-operation.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 10/03/14
KFOR Commander Major General Salvatore Farina (right) and Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff General Ljubisa Dikovic meet in Kosovo in January. [KFOR]
In order to contribute to the stabilisation of the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade, KFOR officials and Serbian Army leaders are working together to facilitate co-operation.
KFOR Commander Major-General Salvatore Farina and Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff General Ljubisa Dikovic have met twice this year, while other meetings have included Serbian Defence Minister Nebojsa Rodic and NATO Allied Joint Force Command Admiral Bruce Clingan.
The meetings are conducted in line with the military technical agreement, known as the Kumanovo Treaty.
The agreement, signed on June 9th 1999, in Kumanovo, Macedonia, created the conditions for the end of the bombing campaign, the deployment of international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and a timed withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army from the then-province.
"In tactical terms, KFOR units and Serbian Armed Forces troops keep synchronised patrolling alongside the administrative boundary line and the ground safety zone as usual. The longstanding partnership in this specific context, regulated by the military technical agreement, allow both military forces to work together in a fruitful manner on a daily basis," KFOR said in a statement to SETimes.
"The outcome can have a positive impact on the global confidence-building in the region," KFOR said.
Rodic and Clingan also emphasised the significance of co-operation between the two military players in order to strengthen the security situation in the region.
Clingan praised "the high-level communication between Serbia and NATO," as well as the desire to further co-operation to benefit both sides, according to the Alliance.
Co-operation between the two military groups will help ease tensions in northern Kosovo, one analyst said. [AFP]
During a meeting in February in Belgrade, Rodic said Serbian citizens trust KFOR more than any other institution in Kosovo.
"Maintenance of the neutral position of NATO will support the implementation of the Brussels Agreement. In this regard, it is particularly important to avoid the reduction of KFOR troops, which would lead to difficulties in implementation of the military technical agreement," Rodic said.
According to KFOR, neutrality is necessary to maintain the relationship between the mission and Serbian citizens.
"Impartiality is considered by KFOR as the right approach, considering the military challenges faced over the last 15 years and in maintaining strong and positive relations with all the other stakeholders and enablers," KFOR told SETimes.
Dragan Djukanovic of the International Relations Forum of the European Movement in Serbia, also sees co-operation between KFOR and the Serbian Army as important for the implementation of the Brussels Agreement, and as a guarantee for the development of the Serbian community in northern Kosovo.
"This co-operation is important for the analysis of some specific security challenges which are showing up in the region. The Serbian Army can be a significant factor of security and stability," Djukanovic told SETimes.
He added that KFOR has a key role in Kosovo's stability since there are still some problems in protecting local ethnic communities, especially Serbian ones.
Currently, KFOR troops and the Serbian Army jointly patrol the administrative boundary line. [AFP]
"Among these problems are the lack of the full protection of minority communities, especially freedom of movement, protection of cultural and historical monuments, the lack of effort in disabling extremist activities," Djukanovic said.
Florian Qehaja, executive director of Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, agreed.
"KFOR retains key security functions in Kosovo, it serves as a focal point in military matters. The co-operation between the Serbian Army and KFOR is important to establish co-operation between the prospective [Serbian] government and NATO," he told SETimes.
In order to foster co-operation between Pristina and Belgrade in light of the Brussels Agreement, co-operation between the Serbian Army and the Kosovo Security Force will also be introduced.
"The Kosovo Security Force is expected to soon take over the military mandate in Kosovo and, at a later stage, will take responsibility from KFOR. The potential co-operation between these two institutions is of crucial importance for the security and stability in the region," Qehaja said.
"Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia's defence institutions are crucial enablers of the overall stability in the wide Balkan area, and to maintain and improve the positive outcomes of KFOR's successful presence in Kosovo," the NATO mission said in a statement for SETimes.
How can KFOR and the Serbian Army help foster better relations between Belgrade and Pristina? Share what you think in the comments section.