Kosovo approves new army despite Serb opposition, NATO criticism
PRISTINA – Reuters
Kosovo’s parliament voted yesterday to create a 5,000-strong standing army, a week after Serbia’s premier suggested the move could provoke military intervention by Belgrade.
The move, coming 20 years after Kosovo Albanians’ uprising against Serbian rule and a decade after independence, was lauded as “historic” by the United States but NATO criticized it as unhelpful in efforts to ease tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.
Legislation to transform the lightly armed Kosovo Security Force, which was created mainly for crisis response, civil defense and removal of ordnance from the 1990s conflict, into an army was approved by 105 deputies in the 120-seat assembly.
Eleven minority Serb deputies boycotted the vote.
The move is also strongly opposed by Kosovo Serbs’ patron Serbia, which has refused to recognize the independence of its former province and warned that a national Kosovo army could destabilize the Western Balkans.
“I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement yesterday.
On Dec. 5, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic suggested one possible response by Belgrade could be military intervention.
Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic’s adviser Nikola Selakovic told Serbian state TV yesterday that such a move would present a “serious decision that could have long-term consequences. He said possible could include declaring the former province an occupied territory and the use of the Serbian armed forces.