Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Albin Kurti of Kosovo
Mr Kurti, dear Albin,
Welcome to NATO Headquarters, it is good to see you again. I value this opportunity to meet here with you.
We have just addressed the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo and NATO’s role to ensure all communities are safe and secure.
I welcome that the situation on the ground has improved but we must avoid any further escalation.
So I urge all parties to act with restraint and avoid unhelpful rhetoric.
Outstanding issues must be resolved through political dialogue.
This was also my clear message to Serbian President Vucic earlier today.
The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping mission continues to monitor the situation closely.
Our commander is in contact with both the Kosovo security organisations and the Serbian Chief of Defence.
KFOR’s neutrality is central to its mission success.
And KFOR is ready to intervene if stability is jeopardised.
KFOR has more than 3,700 troops, provided by 20 Allies and 7 partners.
We are fully committed to our mission and our mandate, UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
KFOR will continue to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all the people of Kosovo.
But the only way towards sustainable peace is for Belgrade and Pristina to resolve their issues through the EU-facilitated dialogue.
I urge all parties to engage positively and constructively in the latest round of the EU talks tomorrow.
It is an opportunity for Kosovo to demonstrate that it is a responsible actor within the Euro-Atlantic community.
So I really appreciate you being here today, it is great to have you back.
It is important for NATO that Belgrade and Pristina resolve their differences through dialogue.
To find common ground.
And to reach a solution that respects the rights of all communities.
So, dear Albin, great to see you back at the NATO Headquarters.
Gjeraqina Tuhina (RTK Kosovo): Tuhina, RTK Kosovo, Public TV. Mr. Stoltenberg, you have emphasized several times that KFOR would intervene in cases that stability is jeopardized. What needs to happen apart from barricades, for KFOR to intervene, having in mind that Serbian military officials haven't excluded the fact that they would enter in Kosovo territory? And to Prime Minister Kurti, do you accept the qualification that both sides are held responsible for possible escalation? And if I may, the second question regarding the possibility to become a member of PFP: are you aware of political obstacles that consensus is needed for accepting Kosovo in PFP? And we have four non-recognizers in NATO. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, NATO can do. I think we have to start with the fact that NATO is in Kosovo with close to 4000 Troops, and that is currently our biggest military presence outside NATO territory, and that demonstrates a very strong commitment to peace, to stability to the Western Balkans, to Kosovo, and also a very strong commitment by NATO Allies reiterated at the NATO summit in Madrid that we will fulfil the UN mandate which is the basis of our presence in Kosovo. So, well trained, well equipped, well led NATO forces from NATO Allied countries and partners. Just the presence of these troops, helps to deescalate and prevent violence. Second, when needed, we have demonstrated again and again, that we can deploy and increase our presence, for instance, in the north, as we have done over the last weeks. So we can do that again, we can further increase and we also have for instance, regular patrols of NATO KFOR troops also in the north. So, we will of course, our actions will be proportionate, they will be measured, but they will be clear and we will do what is necessary to prevent escalation and to ensure the freedom and the safety and the freedom of all the communities, in Kosovo. So, I think just what we have proven over so many years demonstrates what NATO is able to do when needed and when necessary. Yeah, I think that's a brief answer.
Mr. Albin Kurti: Well, if one thinks of two sides, then on one side you have democratic state of Kosovo. We have professional police of our Republic and on the other hand, on the other side, you have illegal structures of Serbia who have been turned into criminal gangs who erected barricades. 9 out of 13 of them were erected within 10 minutes. And in this sense, you can say that there are two sides but we should never lose moral center. We should never abandon value-based policies. And that means that there should be zero tolerance towards crime and corruption. Towards organized crime. From April last year until July this year, our police conducted all together 39 operations with which they managed to arrest dozens of criminals from the organized crime, which is multiethnic and multinational and cross border, many of them being Albanian, not only Serbs. But our police does not distinguish criminals according to their national identity, only according to their acts and behavior as individuals or as groups. Therefore we need all the support from EU, from NATO, from the democratic west in general, for a democratic country of Kosovo. I know that there are four non-recognizers of our independence in NATO. I know it is not easy, but I always work hard and insist on what is just and needed.
Teri Schultz (Deutsche Welle): Thank you very much. Prime Minister Kurti, one of the ways that you've been helping NATO already is with the US hosting camp Liya for Afghan evacuees. I wanted to know if since the one year that you gave the United States is up at the end of August, have you agreed to extend the camp since there are evacuees who do not have, who have not been given visas to go on to the United States, and will you accept these people to stay in Kosovo if they do not find third countries? And Mr. Secretary General along those lines: is NATO doing anything to help the United States find homes for some of these former Afghan government officials, for example, who are not being granted visas to the US? Is there something NATO can do to find them homes outside of America? Thank you very much.
Mr. Albin Kurti: First of all, it is our humanitarian duty to help refugees. People who have to flee due to hardships, due to catastrophes, due to coup d’état, to regime change and when their life and the lives of their family members are at risk. So it's a humanitarian duty. On the other hand, it is duty towards our allies and partners and friends. Of course, first of all the United States to help when they are in need. And we will continue to do so. My Minister of Internal Affairs is in close cooperation with US Embassy and with authorities, military authorities of the Camp Bondsteel in order to help all those people who are in need to the best of our abilities.
NATO Secretary General: Also since then the emigration out of Kabul, thousands of people who have worked for NATO, NATO Allies have been resettled in many different NATO countries. And I know there are still some remaining ones, and NATO Allies are still addressing that together.
Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg): Thank you for the question. Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg. Prime Minister I just want to ask, would you consider dropping your plans to switch license plates for the Serbs? And, Secretary General, not related to this topic but on Ukraine: Do you have any indication of who might be behind the blasts in Crimea that we saw yesterday and last week? Thank you.
Mr. Albin Kurti: We have made the decision on 29th of June this year, to enable all Serbian citizens of Kosovo whose car plates are with denominations of year 1999, like legacy of the regime of Milosevic, produced in Serbia with acronyms of towns in Kosovo, to convert them into legal and legitimate car plates RKS. To this end, we have started a campaign to inform all Serbian citizens, but also created certain financial incentives. So during this conversion of car plates, Serbian citizens will not have to pay excise and customs duty and value added tax which for one car goes up to 5000 euros. We will continue with the campaign of information and we will also implement this conversion of car plates. Moreover, Serbia itself agreed that since mid-January 2018, they are not going to produce such car plates in Serbia anymore, and they are also not going to force Serbs to use them. That's why four years after, we are implementing something which is according to our constitution and law, legal, but on the other hand, also according to the Serbians pledges in Brussels dialogue process, their obligation. Therefore, we do not see any way around it and I think is for the benefit of all of us to make everything legitimate and legal in our country.
NATO Secretary General: On the explosions in Crimea, I cannot go into details about our intelligence and I will not speculate. What I can say is that Crimea is illegally annexed by Russia. They illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. Ukraine has the right for self defence, NATO Allies are providing support to Ukraine. And, of course, what we see now is that it is this senseless war, which President Putin is responsible for which is creating more and more damage, more and more suffering for the people of Ukraine. And one of the most acute dangers we all face is now the situation around the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia where Russian troops have occupied and control the facility for several months, and they now use their ground around the nuclear power plant as a staging area as a platform to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces and this is reckless it is irresponsible, and it just underlines the importance of allowing international inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And also, it demonstrates the importance that Russia should withdraw all its forces and not use a nuclear power plant and ground around that power plant as a platform for launching military attacks against Ukraine.
Lailuma Sadid (Brussels Morning): Thank you, Lailuma Sadid from Brussels Morning and Latitude. Secretary General one years ago, exactly, I asked you and I begged you to ask your Alliance to not recognise the Taliban. And now in one year later, how do you see the situation in Afghanistan and what is NATO position in a political and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. And the second one, as the strongest military organisation in the world, like NATO, the Alliance of NATO, they are trying to start negotiation with Taliban again, this is the time I think not is start weak negotiation with the terrorist group like Taliban because they still didn't cut the relation with Taliban, with al Qaeda sorry. And how do you see this negotiation and which is happened last year? It is really unforgettable for everyone, especially for the people of Afghanistan. Are you going to pressurise the Taliban to accept to cut the relation with al Qaeda and accept the woman rights in Afghanistan and also give a little bit freedom for the people of Afghanistan and also stop genocide in Afghanistan? Are you going to talk with the Alliance to pressurise the Taliban, Thank you.
NATO Secretary General: What we see now in Afghanistan is a tragedy for the Afghan people, in particular for Afghan women. The first anniversary of Taliban's takeover, in Kabul, is a bitter occasion where we demonstrate the brutality of the Taliban rule. And it's also of course, bitter for all those who worked for so many years for a democratic free, Afghanistan, respecting human rights including the rights of women. What NATO Allies are doing is that they're stepping up their humanitarian support, the support for human rights groups, and of course, also NATO Allies, and international communities. Putting significant pressure on the Taliban regime, not least by imposing severe sanctions on the regime. Let me also add that we are of course, we are aware of that there have to be some severe lessons to be learned after all these years in Afghanistan. I think the main or perhaps most important lesson to be learned is that one thing is to fight terrorism which was the main reason we went into Afghanistan. We have achieved a lot in the fight against terrorism. And I also think that the the latest strike against al Qaeda leader shows that we can continue to fight terrorism also from outside Afghanistan. But it is a much more ambitious task to move from fighting terrorism, which was the original purpose of the mission, to build the democratic free Afghanistan. That was an ambition expressed by NATO Allies, by the UN, by the European Union, and also by NATO. And that proved to be extremely much more difficult. So I think we achieved a lot in the fight against terrorism, but we have seen that in our efforts to create the more stable and free and democratic Afghanistan. What we have seen in the last year is actually a huge setback and the tragedy for Afghanistan, but also for all those Allies and partners who worked so hard to create a more peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.