As Tirana and Pristina sign a status of forces agreement, Belgrade expresses concern for the safety of Kosovo Serbs.
By Linda Karadaku and Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 11/07/13
Albania and Kosovo have downplayed Serbian concerns about the status of forces agreement between Tirana and Pristina. [AFP]
The signing of a status of forces agreement between Kosovo and Albania promises to bolster co-operation between the two countries, but has raised security concerns in neighbouring Serbia.
The Kosovo-Albania agreement, signed July 1st, regulates relations between the countries based on NATO standards, the entry and exit procedures of military equipment and personnel into each state, and the temporary deployment and status of civilian personnel.
While neither Kosovo nor Albania have sent equipment or personnel to one another aside from Albanian officers who served in the KFOR mission, the agreement creates a legal framework that would allow such movement.
Both Pristina and Tirana say the agreement does not threaten any other nation, but Serbia Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic called it a "very serious problem," and said Belgrade would consult with the EU and other officials.
With Serb populations in northern Kosovo concerned that the implementation of the Brussels agreement that was signed in April will reduce their security, Vucic added that NATO has guaranteed that the Kosovo Security Force will not send personnel to that area.
Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliament Committee on Kosovo, gave a sharper assessment.
"This agreement between Kosovo and Albania indicates large Albanian claims and may threaten the safety of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohia," Drecun told SETimes.
Military analyst and author Miroslav Lazanski said the agreement is a provocation addressed at Serbia.
"The agreement entitles the Albanian armed forces to be stationed in Kosovo, which is not at all in the spirit of easing tensions in this part of the region," Lazanski told SETimes.
But the Kosovo Security Force and the Albanian Ministry of Defense said no nation should feel threatened by the agreement.
"The agreement ... does not represent any threat at all for Serbia or any other neighbour of Kosovo. This agreement is a result of the good and continuous co-operation between the two ministries. We will for sure sign other agreements in turn with the neighbouring and friendly countries, which will open new possibilities for intensive and overall co-operation between the states of the region, and furthermore, contribute to the strengthening of peace and overall security," Ibrahim Shala, spokesperson for the Kosovo Security Force, told SETimes.
Lorisa Ylli, a spokesperson for the Albanian Ministry of Defense, told SETimes that NATO member countries and those that aspire to join the Alliance, including Kosovo and Serbia, "are clear about the obligations and the mutual respect deriving from the Washington Treaty," NATO's founding document.
"This agreement does not represent a threat for any other country and even less for Serbia, which is a NATO partner country, with the status of Partnership for Peace member. This agreement between the two sovereign states increases the co-operation between our two countries, countries that have been a model regarding the spirit of stabilisation and security they transmit in the region," Ylli said.
Ramadan Qehaja, head of the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, agrees.
"It is the right of any sovereign state to sign bilateral agreements," Qehaja told SETimes.
Does the Albania-Kosovo agreement pose a threat to Serbia or the Serbs in northern Kosovo? Share your thoughts in the comments section.