PRISTINA -- During a visit to Kosovo, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance-led peacekeeping force will remain in the country to secure “peace and stability” in the Western Balkans, and urged local leaders to work toward normalizing relations with neighboring Serbia.
History has shown that the “KFOR mission is important not only for Kosovo and for the region, but also for NATO and for all NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told a press conference in Pristina on July 1.
The Western military alliance has led KFOR since 1999, with more than 3,700 troops from over two dozen countries, after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the 1998-1999 Kosovo War that left more than 10,000 dead.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but it has not been recognized by Belgrade, Russia, and five EU nations. The United States and more than 110 other countries have recognized the independence of Serbia’s former province.
During his visit, Stoltenberg visited KFOR troops at Camp Bondsteel and met with top Kosovar officials.
In the talks, Stoltenberg said he had underlined the importance of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.
"I think the most important thing Kosovo can do now is to continue to work for a political solution, to continue to engage in a political dialogue with Belgrade, because at some stage you need to see a normalization,” Stoltenberg told the press conference.
“That would be important when it comes to the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade, but it will also be important when it comes to Kosovo’s relationship with all international institutions, including NATO."
Serbian and Kosovar leaders met two weeks ago in Brussels as part of decade-long negotiations aimed at resolving disputes, but the talks failed to make progress.