NATO chief says alliance ‘does not give up’ on political solution to Kosovo clashes

OSLO, Norway  (AA) : NATO chief on Thursday said that sending additional troops to Kosovo “does not mean” that the alliance gives up on a possible political solution to the ongoing clashes.

Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks came during his doorstep before the informal NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Norway’s capital Oslo.

Responding to Anadolu’s question on whether sending additional 700 NATO troops to Kosovo and keeping a battalion ready in case of a further need means that the alliance expects the clashes may turn into a bigger conflict in Europe after Russia’s war in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said: “This does not mean that we are giving up on a political solution.”

“Our message to both Belgrade and Pristina is that they have to engage in good faith in the EU-facilitated dialogue, that’s the only path to peace,” he urged.

He added: “But at the same time, NATO has the responsibility to ensure stability in Kosovo. That’s why we have been there for many years and are now increasing our presence in the region.”

Reiterating that attacks on NATO peacekeepers are “totally unacceptable,” the NATO chief said that additional troops will be stationed in Kosovo to “ensure a safe and secure environment, and calm down the tensions.”

He said the first batch of additional 700 troops is on its way.

Recent clashes in Kosovo and supporting Ukraine against Russia will remain at the top of the foreign ministers’ agenda.

Tensions have gripped Kosovo with protesters and security forces clashing in the northern Serb-dominated municipalities over the election of ethnic Albanian mayors.

Albanians are the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, especially in the north, near the border with Serbia.

During the clashes, at least 30 NATO soldiers were injured.

Meanwhile, more than 53 civilians were injured by shock bombs and tear gas, according to hospital sources.

Sweden’s NATO bid

Stoltenberg said that he will soon visit Ankara to discuss Sweden’s NATO bid with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Noting that he spoke with Erdogan earlier this week and highlighted the importance of making progress on the accession of Sweden, he said: “I will also travel to Ankara in the near future to continue to address how we can ensure the fastest possible accession of Sweden.”

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership soon after the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022. Finland joined the alliance in April, while Sweden is still making reforms to get membership.

Sweden is joining the summit as a NATO invitee.