Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu

  • 07 Sep. 2023 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 07 Sep. 2023 17:36

(As delivered)

Ms Osmani, dear Vjosa,
Welcome to NATO Headquarters.
It’s great to see you again.

We just discussed the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo.
And the continuing importance of NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping mission under the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution 1244.

Our KFOR troops were attacked earlier this year.
Leaving 93 of them injured, some seriously.
This is totally unacceptable.

The stability of the region and the safety of KFOR troops depends on all actors honouring their existing commitments.
NATO considers these to be of the highest importance, and expects them to be fully met.

In line with Pristina’s commitment from 2013, any deployment of the Kosovo Security Force to the North of Kosovo requires the concurrence of KFOR.
And we expect timely and meaningful consultation on any action of the Kosovo Security Force or Kosovo Police that could impact the security environment.

In response to the recent unrest, NATO has deployed hundreds of additional troops to Kosovo.

KFOR continues to monitor the situation closely.
And we stand ready to act as necessary to fulfil our UN mandate:
To maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.

Neutrality and impartiality are central to the success of our mission.
And our commander in Kosovo is in close contact with both the security organisations in Kosovo and the Serbian Chief of Defence.

I welcome recent steps taken by Pristina to lower tensions.
Including reducing the number of special police in the north,
And plans to facilitate new municipal elections.

But it is essential to avoid further escalation.
So I urge all parties to avoid inflammatory rhetoric.
And to act with restraint and in line with their commitments.

NATO strongly supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
I welcome the announcement of another high-level dialogue meeting next week.
This is the only way to resolve outstanding issues.
And to reach a solution that respects the rights of all communities.
This requires patience, perseverance and compromise.
It is also an opportunity for Kosovo to demonstrate that it is a responsible actor, working constructively for the benefit of Euro-Atlantic security.

So once again, welcome.
It’s great to see you here and thank you so much for a very fruitful and important meeting.


NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: We'll start with RTK. Over here, please.

Gjeraqina Tuhina (RTK): Yes, from Kosovo television. Secretary General, I plan to ask something else. But I was puzzled by your introductory remarks, referring to 2013 commitments, which evidently include only the consultation and prior approval of Kosovo security forces, approval by ComKFOR. You are now including special police forces. Is this a new requirement of NATO? Can you clarify please? Thank you very much.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: It's not a new requirement, it is the conditions that the NATO’s presence has been based on for a long time. Any deployment of the Special Forces requires concurrence from KFOR and then there is a need for coordination and close consultations between the authorities in Pristina and KFOR for any deployment that may affect our posture and the security in Kosovo.

NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: Next, we'll go to Associated Press, please.

Lorne Cook (AP): Lorne Cook from the Associated Press. You heard the Secretary General, Madam President, talk about the tensions and the concerns that that he has. And we know that any wrong statement or incident can create problems for personnel in Kosovo. There's a new round of further Serbia-Pristina dialogue coming up next week.
I wonder what your hopes for that process are? And what you think of that as a structure whether that's working or not, because it seems to be moving quite slowly. Secretary General, the President mentioned that perpetrators must be held to account for what happened. You yourself mentioned 93 people had been injured during the incidents earlier in Kosovo this year.
Do you agree to that, that the perpetrators should be held to account? Is justice being done is that is that being happened? Is that happening on behalf of Kosovo, KFOR staff.

Ms Vjosa Osmani of Kosovo: The next dialogue meeting between the representatives of the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia, will take place on the 14th of September. Kosovo has always been the constructive party, unfortunately, the only constructive party in that process. Unfortunately, the list of unimplemented agreements by Serbia is very long, so I will not dwell upon it. But I have to say that our hopes are right now that there will be a balanced approach. A balanced approach by the EU inter mediators is a precondition for the success of the process. There were times when we didn't see this balance.

So, I would like to call upon all of our partners and Allies to ensure this balance, to ensure a principle of full equality and equal footing of both parties in the process if we want to see sustainable results, and the results that truly contribute to peace and security and stability in the region. Now, of course, what remains at this point in time is discussing a sequencing plan for the agreements that were reached in Brussels and Ohrid.

Of course, that sequencing plan needs to take into account that the agreement in Brussels has 11 articles, not just one. So, we in the Republic of Kosovo have been insisting on full implementation of the entire agreement. There is not one article that is more important than the other and also have committed to fully implementing are part of the obligations but we should not ignore the fact that Serbia has undertaken concrete obligations in that agreement as well, among which is not objecting to Kosovo's membership in any international organization, of course, an obligation which it has already violated. And as discussed earlier, among others, although the agreement clearly calls on the parties to respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the principle of equality, what happened post the agreement was that Serbia kidnapped three police officers within our territory.

And they continue with their destabilization efforts against the entire neighbor, all of the neighbors in the region, which is unfortunate, because in this way, they are not only destabilizing the Western Balkans, they are putting at risk the values based system that the European Union and NATO represent.

If I may add, when it comes to the issue of coordination with our NATO Allies: as President of the Republic, I've constantly worked to make sure that there is full coordination between Kosovo institutions, and the KFOR presence in Kosovo, because we because we believe that working together with allies produces better results, we all have the same goal, which is peace, stability, and security for all the people of Kosovo and the region. Nevertheless, the 2013 agreement, as Gjeraqina pointed out, only focuses on the Kosovo Security Force, the police of Kosovo has been acting in exercising its constitutional mandate.
Throughout all the territory of Kosovo for more than two decades – yesterday, we celebrated the anniversary of their creation – and by the way, it's the most professional police force and a multi ethnic force in the entire region. But as a as a principle of coordination, as President, I insist that coordinating with our allies, not just for the North, because Kosovo also has its south, its east and its west, we should coordinate and work together with Allies for every inch of our territory for the entire region, precisely because of our strategic orientation, which is Euro Atlantic integration.

Whenever we worked together with partners, the results were fruitful, there was more peace, more prosperity and more stability in the region. So we will continue to work together to address these joint security challenges. Because as the 29th of May has shown to all of us, those who are against Kosovo, are also against NATO. The attack against NATO soldiers showed that these destructive and malign forces want to attack the values based on which NATO as well as the foundation of our country, our base, so we will absolutely work with NATO and the presence of KFOR. But, of course, pointing out to the fact that the 2013 exchange of notes was a very narrow agreement and for all of our security institutions, we aim to make sure that they are in the near future part of the Euro Atlantic institutions.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: the attack on NATO peacekeepers KFOR personnel that happened earlier this summer, in May, is totally unacceptable. And therefore it is important that those who are responsible are held accountable. There is an ongoing investigation by the Kosovo authorities. We also have the EU Lex, Mission in Kosovo. And then of course, the third responder is, is KFOR. Our mandate is based on the UN mandate. And our mandate is to ensure a safe and secure environment for all communities in Kosovo. But again, this is a law enforcement issue. It is an issue which is of great importance because it is unacceptable that peacekeepers that have a clear mandate and which are enforcing that mandate in a very difficult situation or attacked, a high number of wounded personnel and three of them with life altering wounds. So yes, those who are responsible must be held accountable and there is ongoing investigation.

NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: Time for just one more. I will go to Reuters, please.

Question 3: Secretary General, you mentioned the importance of neutrality and impartiality. But there's a widespread view in Kosovo and across the Balkans that NATO and the EU are going easy on Serbia, are turning a blind eye to Serbian actions in Kosovo, because Serbia is being helpful with weapons deliveries for Ukraine. Is that the case? And President Osmani, do you believe that to be the case?

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: It's not the case. We have been very clear on our messages to Belgrade and I will say that also in my meeting with President Vučić.

Ms Vjosa Osmani of Kosovo: As I pointed out, those who attacked NATO on the 29th of May are clearly known to law enforcement agencies, there is video footage, which all of you have seen. Some of these people actually are police officers who came all the way from Serbia. So these are members of the institutions of Serbia. Not only that they have not been suspended from their jobs, but of course, they're not facing any consequences whatsoever. As we speak, Serbia continues to have 48… 48 forward operation bases around the border with Kosovo: the so-called Russian humanitarian center very close to the border with Kosovo, which according to the American DOD, is a Russian spy center.

It continues to fly Russian MIG 29s around the border with Kosovo, it continues to increase its military, political, as well as economic cooperation with Russia, and of course coordinate… fully coordinated foreign and security policy with Russia. Kosovo, on the other side is at the 100% alignment with every foreign and security policy decision of EU and NATO. I believe it is very clear who are the partners of the Euro Atlantic community in our region.

But at the same time, of course, we are fully aware that bringing Serbia closer to the Euro Atlantic community, bringing Serbia closer to the west is in the interest of all of us, of all of us. Serbia should be doing at least a little bit of its homework before it gets the support that it is receiving from the European Union. Because the EU money should go hand in hand with the EU values. That's not the case as we speak.

NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: It's all we have time for. Thank you all very much.