In this photo taken on Sept. 9, 2018, soldiers of NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR take a break by the side of the road in the village of Kosterc, Kosovo. Serbia's prime minister warned on Wednesday that the formation of a Kosovo army could trigger Serbia's armed intervention in the former province — the bluntest warning so far amid escalating tensions in the Balkans. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

NATO chief speaks to Serbia and Kosovo leaders amid tensions

December 06, 2018 - 11:12 am

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke on Thursday with both Serbian and Kosovo leaders about Kosovo's plan to form a regular army, a move that has been strongly contested by Serbia and the alliance.

A statement from Kosovo's government said Ramush Haradinaj assured Stoltenberg the transition from the Kosovo Security Force into a regular army would be done in close cooperation with NATO.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a statement that he expressed concern about Kosovo's plan because it represents "a danger" for the "survival" of the Serb minority in Kosovo and that it could jeopardize regional stability and peace.

Stoltenberg said in a statement that both Serbian and Kosovo officials should "show calm and restraint, and avoid any provocative statements or actions."

He said he had warned Haradinaj that NATO would "examine the level of our engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.?"

"I stressed that such a move is ill-timed, goes against the advice of many NATO allies, and can have negative repercussions on Kosovo's prospects for Euro-Atlantic integration," Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg reminded Belgrade and Pristina that dialogue remains "the only way to bring durable peace and stability to the region," adding that NATO is committed to the security and stability of Kosovo.

Serbia has warned the formation of a Kosovo army could trigger an armed intervention.

Kosovo's parliament will vote Dec. 14 on the creation of a regular army. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia doesn't recognize.

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