NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said following his meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that all parties need to act responsibly in order for the situation in Kosovo to improve. He called on Belgrade and Pristina to show restraint and to avoid violence. He said KFOR was ready to intervene if stability is jeopardized, and that it has already increased its presence in North Kosovo. Vucic said he informed the NATO Secretary General of all the incidents and attacks on the Serb population and rebutted the information that the Serbian army and police had crossed the administrative border and that “any kind of invasion” is being planned, as Pristina officials and media had said.
“NATO continues to monitor closely the situation on the ground, our KFOR peacekeeping mission remains focused on its UN mandate: Should stability be jeopardized, KFOR stands ready to intervene,” Stoltenberg told a joint press conference following his meeting with Vucic.
“Constructive dialogue is the only way to solve differences in the region and the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is the platform to find a solution that respects the rights of all communities;” the NATO Secretary General said.
“I welcome the next round of dialogue taking place tomorrow. I encourage all sides to engage in good faith, to show flexibility and to be constructive,” Stoltenberg said.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he discussed with Stoltenberg the recent events in Kosovo and added that Serbia sees KFOR’s role as very important. He thanked Stoltenberg for wanting to hear Serbia’s position.
“We will continue to respect the KFOR mandate in line with international norms, and I believe that both Stoltenberg and the whole of NATO will show understanding. For Serbia peace and stability are of vital importance,” Vucic told the press conference.
Difficult talks in Brussels
Vucic said that talks with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti scheduled for Thursday will be difficult.
“We practically agree on nothing, but we will stick to international law, to the Brussels Agreement, as for our bilateral relations, I told Stoltenberg that Serbia is a military neutral country and that it will not take sides in the sense of blocs,” Vucic said.
He added that Serbia wants to avoid “every possibility of escalation or conflicts”. “We acted responsibly, we did not cause provocations or incidents,” Vucic said.
“We explained our position, I presented a list of Pristina’s special units’ raids in the north which needed permission for that, a list of all incidents and attacks on the Serb population, it is our duty to talk about our position and to do everything in order to preserve peace and stability,” Vucic reiterated.
The NATO Secretary General said that the Alliance’s role in Kosovo “is based on a very clear UN mandate and we take that very seriously in that our responsibility is to be neutral, it is not to be part of the conflict but to be a neutral actor that ensures the safety and security of all communities.”
“Therefore we are very careful about doing anything that involves us in the conflict, we support the EU-facilitated dialogue,” said Stoltenberg, adding: “My main message is that we will not be involved, we will be a neutral actor and conduct our presence there according to the very clear and strong UN mandate.”
Vucic said the Serbian army and police did not cross the administrative line at any time.
“I am grateful to NATO for not releasing untruths. Serbia does not need anyone’s war bases, Serbia is neutral, it wants to protect its skies, its peace by itself,” said Vucic when asked about the establishment of a Russian military base in Serbia.
Stoltenberg said there is always a risk of conflict escalation, “therefore it is important that we have the meetings taking place today and tomorrow.”
Clear NATO message – prevent escalation
“I will meet Mr. Kurti later on today and I will hear his assessment. My message is the same: that everything has to be done to prevent escalation. NATO will do its part by sending a clear message through KFOR, by being very clear in our communications that we will intervene, we will act when needed, “ said Stoltenberg when asked about the danger of the conflict escalating given the rhetoric between Belgrade and Pristina.
Answering the same question, Vucic said he does not believe “there are any concerns, real concerns from Albin Kurti and from the Pristina side.”
“It’s about political rhetoric, in which you can use everything against the other side…For me it is even much easier to refute all these claims… we have been listening about Serbia’s possibility, wishes to invade either some entities, or some countries in the region five months ago, three months ago, and it hasn’t happened so far. Which means that they were actually lying… and there was no rebuking from anyone in the world about this kind of narrative against Serbia….And I also know that we will never hear the word sorry for all these false and fabricated claims against our country,” Vucic said.
Stoltenberg: It is important to stand united in opposing Russia’s aggression
Stoltenberg said he and Vucic also discussed the war in Ukraine and stressed the importance of the international community standing united in opposing Russia’s unprovoked aggression.
The NATO Secretary General also commented on the attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power station and said they were a threat to security.
“That raises risks of a nuclear accident or incident and endangers the population of Ukraine, of neighboring countries, and of the international community. It is urgent to allow the inspection by international Atomic Energy Agency,” Stoltenberg said.