by NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations, Tom Goffus
Good afternoon. I am here in Pristina to highlight NATO’s steadfast commitment to a peaceful and stable Kosovo and Western Balkans region.
Despite repeated calls from NATO and the broader international community to both Belgrade and Pristina, we have seen no progress towards de-escalation. This endangers the security and safety of all people in Kosovo, as well as that of NATO personnel.
The women and men of our KFOR mission have been on duty day and night, for many years, away from their countries and their families, to ensure a safe and secure environment here in Kosovo. These are the same men and women who on 29 May suffered unprovoked and unacceptable attacks, leaving 93 of them injured – some of them severely. That is the highest number of KFOR casualties in a single day since 1999. This is absolutely unacceptable and cannot happen again. NATO has made this position clear also to the Serbian authorities. False narratives about KFOR’s role are also unacceptable.
It is urgent for both Pristina and Belgrade to take immediate steps towards de-escalation, in line with the EU’s three-point plan. It is also essential that both sides appropriately coordinate actions on the ground and respect existing agreements.
Timely and meaningful cooperation is of key importance, as I have stressed in my meetings today. Effective cooperation is how Kosovo demonstrates it can be an effective security partner to NATO. Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in our practical and political coordination. This runs counter to the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Kosovar people. I have also shared my strongest expectation that all agreements with NATO will be honoured and implemented. This is essential to ensure that the strong cooperation between NATO and the Institutions in Kosovo is not derailed.
Our KFOR mission continues to provide a safe and secure environment in Kosovo in accordance with our mandate, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999. I visited our peacekeepers in the north – including the operational reserve battalion deployed earlier this month as a result of NATO’s heightened security and stability concerns.
KFOR soldiers are doing a tremendous job. They have proven indispensable over the past year to deal with this cycle of tension and crisis. They will continue to take all necessary steps to implement their mandate impartially. And they remain ready to intervene if the situation requires.
While KFOR has proven essential in the ongoing environment, the solution for lasting stability is a political one. It is critical that both Kosovo and Serbia engage constructively in the EU-facilitated dialogue. We call on both sides to implement, as soon as possible and in full, the Basic Agreement and its Implementation Annex agreed in Ohrid [OKH-RIT].
This is a critical moment for security on our continent. Russia has brought back war in Europe with its illegal invasion of Ukraine. The people of Kosovo and the whole Western Balkans region know only too well the horrific cost of war. Nobody should risk another conflict in Europe that would undermine the peace and stability gained with such sacrifice. Thank You.