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KFOR Commander: KFOR to remain in Kosovo as long as needed (RTS, Jedinstvo)

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KFOR Commander General Salvatore Cuocci says that this peacekeeping mission will remain in Kosovo as long as needed, and that NATO currently does not plan to reduce the presence of international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. Speaking about the action of Marko Djuric’s arrest and attacks on journalists in North Mitrovica, Cuocci says that KFOR does not interfere with political or legal issues, national broadcaster RTS reports quoting daily Jedinstvo based in North Mitrovica.

Cuocci says that KFOR did not interfere with political and legal issues, therefore it did not react to the arrest of Marko Djuric, and that it was not involved in the investigation of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic.

Cuocci emphasizes NATO’s support to the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and points its importance for peace and security in the region.

“We are counting on everyone in the region; to show moderation and support every effort that leads to normalization of the security situation and not towards the creation of tension,” the KFOR commander told the daily Jedinstvo based in Mitrovica North.

“Djuric’s arrest was undertaken by the Kosovo Police as the first instance of a security response, and KFOR was not invited to intervene in the capacity of the third instance of a security response,” Cuocci says.

He says that in accordance with KFOR’s current mandate, which do not include the rule of law, they were never involved in the investigations of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic.

On the daily’s question how would KFOR react in case special units from Pristina try to take the north Kosovo and expel the Serbian population and if Serbia decides to protect its territory and people, Cuocci denies the possibility of any threat that endangers the territory or citizens of Kosovo, reports RTS.

KFOR maintains close relations and frequent information exchange with institutions in Kosovo, Serbia, neighbouring countries and international organizations. By the emergence of any warning signal on the security situation, we are ready to implement the necessary measures to keep Kosovo safe “, stresses the KFOR commander.

Asked whether this military mission can be assessed as successful, considering that many murders and kidnappings of Serbs occurred in Kosovo since June 1999, and the perpetrators were not found, Cuocci says that they are not authorized to implement the law, and the peacekeeping mission refers to a safe and secure environment and stability in the region.

When recalled by the daily that he recently stated to Pristina’s daily Zeri that every aggression on Kosovo was an aggression against NATO, Cuocci says that his words were drawn from the answer to the question of possible external threats to Kosovo and stressed that there were no such threats.

“If there is a threat, there is KFOR there. This statement was not addressed to anyone. KFOR is always ready to preserve security and safety and to prevent renewal of hostilities in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244,” Cuocci says.

When asked if there was a future in a society where monasteries and cultural monuments are guarded after 20 years since the conflict, Cuocci replies that the Visoki Decani monastery is the only facility with KFOR members guarding it, reports RTS.

“All other facilities are guarded either by the Kosovo Police or not at all. KFOR keepers were removed from the monasteries in 2010 and since then no incidents have been recorded,” Cuocci stresses.

“KFOR closely follows the debate on KSF, the mandate of the mission is not time-bound”

Speaking about the KFOR mission in Kosovo, he said that KFOR supports the development and enhancement of the Kosovo Security Force’s capabilities and that it closely monitors the debate on the future of the KSF, noting that the structure, mandate and mission of the KSF are negotiated through political decisions of the local institutions.

According to him, in the event of a possible transformation of the KSF, a political decision on the level of the North Atlantic Council of NATO will be made to change the presence of KFOR.

“KFOR’s mandate is not time-bound but depends on the conditions in the field. NATO, for now, is not planning to change or reduce KFOR’s mission in Kosovo,” Cuocci says.

Cuocci assessed KFOR’s cooperation with the Serbian Armed Forces as excellent and states that he meets periodically with Chiefs of Staff of the countries bordering with the zone of responsibility of KFOR.

“Cooperation with the Serbian Armed Forces is at a very high level. KFOR and the Serbian Armed Forces regularly carry out simultaneous patrols along the administrative line of demarcation to contribute to maintaining a peaceful and positive atmosphere,” says the KFOR commander.

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