Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Mr. Isa Mustafa in Kosovo

  • 03 Feb. 2017 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 06 Feb. 2017 13:56

(As delivered)

Joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Mr. Isa Mustafa

Thank you and it’s a great pleasure to visit Pristina again.  I visited Pristina as one of my first visits after I became Secretary General for NATO.  And I'm glad to be back and to meet with you.

The stability of the Western Balkans is of critical importance for NATO.‎ And KFOR remains a priority for the Alliance. 

Because security and stability in this region is important to the security and stability of the whole of Europe. 

KFOR is our longest-running operation. Now, with around 4,500 troops on the ground.

For the past eighteen years, KFOR has been helping transform Kosovo into a safer place.

And today, NATO’s footprint in Kosovo goes beyond our military presence.  We are also committed to capacity building. Our new NATO Advisory and Liaison Team will play a key role in these efforts.  Including with support to the Kosovo Security Force within its current mandate.

We have also agreed to step up our interaction with Kosovo, in many different areas including cyber defence,

science for peace, and building integrity and fighting corruption.  

At the same time, the normalisation process between Pristina and Belgrade is continuing.  NATO fully supports the EU-sponsored dialogue.  The dialogue is now back on track, with two rounds in the last two weeks. And I welcome that.

I remain in close contact with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. I spoke with her this morning and we discussed the importance of further progress.  It is vital that the agreements reached in this dialogue continue to be implemented.   I commend you for your efforts, but the challenges remain and there is still work to be done.

Today we discussed the need for continued commitment from all sides to exercise restraint and defuse tensions.

I strongly encourage you to continue on this path of dialogue and reconciliation.

Because this is the path towards a future of prosperity for Kosovo and for the entire region.  And towards a future within the Euro-Atlantic community.  

NATO will remain committed to the security and stability of Kosovo.  And KFOR will continue its mission to preserve a safe and secure environment and to guarantee freedom of movement, for as long as necessary, in accordance with our United Nations mandate.

So once again let me thank you for your hospitality.  Thank you for very constructive meetings here in Pristina today.  And you can stay assured, NATO will continue to support you.  The KFOR forces will continue to be here and we look forward to strengthening our cooperation by more interaction and more support also when it comes to capacity building.  So once again, thank you so much.

Q: [Interpreted]:  Mr. Stoltenberg you said that you will continue supporting KSF within its current mandate.  Would there be anything beyond this support in terms of armament or defending borders because now this was presented as a necessity and even at the high officials of State Department it was told or we heard that with the reduction of KFOR, KFOR presence in parallel to have empowerment of KSF, this was a question for you? And a question to Prime Minister Mustafa, today there were discussions about meeting with Northern Serb structures about the wall. Is there anything concrete in this regard?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): The Kosovo security force is a professional and increasingly multi-ethnical force and we will continue to support the KSF within its existing mandate and I think also the development of the KSF, the Kosovo Security Force, is one example of successful capacity building from NATO working with the force here in Pristina and in Kosovo. And we will continue to help the development of the Kosovo security force within its existing mandate, it is the structure and the mandate for the Kosovo security force, it is not for NATO to decide; it is for the authorities in Kosovo to decide but should the KSF mandate evolve the North-Atlantic Council would have to re-examine the level of NATO engagement.  But we are ready to continue to support it within its existing mandate.

ISA MUSTAFA (Prime Minister of Kosovo): [Interpreted]: With regards to the issue of the wall during the day we expect contacts between the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and the Municipality of Mitrovica North in order to organize all the legal issues related and I expect the issue to be discussed based on the law and the legal frameworks of the local and the central governments. And I expect a good understanding of all the citizens in this regard and I use the opportunity to stress that there is no security issue of the citizens of the Northern part of Mitrovica because we will respect the law in all legal procedures and I see a goodwill to have this issue resolved in the best way.

Q:  I have a question to the NATO Secretary General. Can NATO guarantee to fight back any foreign military intervention in Kosovo because we have received threats in the recent days from Serbia for deploying their military in Kosovo when only 17 years ago they committed massacres? And Mr. Prime Minister do you consider that the borders of Kosovo are volatile or fragile or not?

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is in Kosovo, NATO has the KFOR Force here to make sure that we are able to maintain stability, peace and security in this part of Europe and as I said we are committed to continue to stay here with a significant force of 4,500 troops around and this sends a very clear signal of our commitment to make sure that Kosovo is a safe and secure place. KFOR is the third responder. We have the Kosovo police, the Kosovo security forces and then we have ULEX and then we have KFOR. And I think that this is important that we have different forces filling different roles and we have seen over many, many years that the KFOR presence has contributed to stability and to security in Kosovo and as I said we are committed to continue as long as necessary. I think that what we need now is not more rhetoric but we need dialogue, we need to reduce tensions to avoid incidents and to support all efforts to move forward on the normalization process Pristina Belgrade.  NATO is strongly supporting that and therefore we urge all parties to show restraints, restraint and to participate in a constructive way [audio stops] dialogue.

ISA MUSTAFA: [Interpreted]:  As a Prime Minister I may tell you that I have no information from responsible security institutions of the country about any eventual breach of the territory of Kosovo. We are facing only endless statements, it’s a huge campaign however there’s no argument indicating that our borders were being breached. We have to be safe, trust our institutions, continue working and to build bridges of cooperation.

Q:    To the Secretary General is now an appropriate time for a referendum in the Ukraine and do you believe that Russia has the power to control the separatists in their actions there? And to the Prime Minister do you believe Russia is increasing its influence in this region and do you believe the Serbian train incident is an example of Russian interference? And should NATO do more to deter Russian involvement in this region?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The focus in Ukraine now is on reform. It’s on how Ukraine can modernize its armed forces and NATO is helping Ukraine in doing so. We provide of course strong political support for Ukraine but NATO is also providing strong practical support for Ukraine in different ways with different trust funds and with different programs to help them to modernize their defense and security institutions to help to modernize their armed forces and then we also motivate NATO allies to also provide help and support on the bilateral level. So NATO and NATO allies provide practical support to Ukraine in different ways including to helping them with modernizing and reforming their armed forces and security institutions. The important thing is that the question of membership in NATO is something that is up to any applicant country and the members of NATO to decide. No one else has the right to intervene or to interfere with such a process. No other country has the right to veto such a process because it is a sovereign right of every nation in Europe to decide its own path including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of and then for the NATO allies to decide whether an applicant country qualify to become a member. We are concerned about the situation in Eastern Ukraine. The ceasefire is not respected, we see many violations of the ceasefire, we see the use of heavy weapons and we also see a very dire humanitarian situation. So, we call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the separatists to make sure that they respect the Minsk Agreements and the ceasefire and that international monitors are allowed free access and are able to do the work they’re supposed to do to monitor the withdrawal of their weapons and the full implementation of the ceasefire.

ISA MUSTAFA: [Interpreted]: What’s visible is that the train inbound to Kosovo left Belgrade not Moscow. It departed from Belgrade with the blessing of officers from Belgrade. The fact is that it was a donation to Serbia and of course we have now statement from Russia that they did not plan to use this train to provoke Kosovo which instigated problems and concerns among Kosovo and also Serbian citizens. But it is an issue of these relations however we don’t want to have bad relations with Russia or Serbia and the donation is given to Serbia we would not like to be to see them being used to provoke situation in Kosovo.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, Kosovo President said that Serbia has the plan to annex Northern part of Kosovo similar as Russia did in Crimea.  Do you share the same concern, do you see that coming?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I will refer to what the Prime Minister just said about the situation in Northern Kosovo and I would also like to underline that NATO is here to contribute to peace, stability. KFOR presence in Kosovo is the foundation for peace and stability in Kosovo and that’s the reason why we have decided to maintain our presence. But as I also said KFOR is the third responder. We have seen a more and more professional police force in Kosovo and we have seen the Kosovo security forces and we have the ULEX also being present in Kosovo. And again I think it’s only making the situation more difficult if we now start to speculate on all different kinds of possibilities. The main message to everyone is to calm down, is to not use rhetoric which can increase tensions and I have a, I’m in regular contact with the European Union but I’m also in regular contact with Belgrade, with Serbia and my main message is always that we should support the E.U. facilitated dialogue, the normalization process and you have actually achieved a lot through that normalization process, many agreements and now the question and the important thing is to implement what you have agreed. So I think the focus should be on implementation of the different agreements in the normalization process, not on speculating and using rhetoric which can only make the situation more difficult.

Q: The question is, Prime Minister is the wall being demolished tomorrow?

ISA MUSTAFA: [Interpreted]: Well when the moment the decision is rendered we will call you and let you know. Thank you.