Kosovo president postpones approval of army transformation

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2017 12:17 PM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's president has bowed to international pressure and agreed to postpone the transformation of the nation's security force into a regular army.

NATO and the United States had warned they would scale back military cooperation with Kosovo if the government passed the law without amending the constitution. The Western military alliance has helped train Kosovo's lightly armed security force.

Hashim Thaci said Friday that "strategic international partners" would assist in urging ethnic monitories, including Serbs, to agree to constitutional changes.

"NATO member countries and the U.S.A. still believe that Republic of Kosovo's institutions can and should create the FAK (Kosovo Armed Forces) through constitutional amendments," Thaci said in a letter sent to Parliament.

"Recently our international strategic partners have confirmed their readiness to assist our institutions ... to secure support from all Kosovo minorities, especially the Serb one," he said.

Serbia has protested that Kosovo's plan was contrary to the U.N. resolution that ended the war in Kosovo in 1999.

The ethnic Serb minority, which had long boycotted all institutions following Belgrade's advice, has ended its boycott, Thaci said at a conference Friday in Pristina, hailing their move back.

The U.S. ambassador to Pristina, Greg Delawie, called on all communities to take part in the conversation "in shaping the future of Kosovo's security forces."

He added that debate should not last forever, that no "party should have a veto" and it did not mean "negotiating with any other foreign state."

"This is a sovereign decision that the people of Kosovo must make for themselves," Delawie said.

The draft law sent to parliament in March does not require voting approval from Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and other minorities as constitutional amendments do, which the international community considered as an indispensable step to take.

Tensions between the two countries have risen in the past four months following a series of incidents and the proposal to create an army made things worse.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia refuses to recognize.