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Commanders affirm NATO commitment to Kosovo, Western Balkans

CAMP NOTHING HILL, Kosovo - The Allied Joint Force Command Naples commander visited his Kosovo Force commander in Northern Kosovo here July 31 as part of an ongoing effort to stay in touch NATO troops and reassure citizens.

U.S. Navy Admiral James Foggo’s engagement with Italian Major General Salvatore Cuoci comes three weeks after NATO articulated its ongoing commitment to Kosovo and the Western Balkans at its July 11-12 Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

"NATO is resolutely invested in helping maintain security in the greater Southeastern European region and Western Balkans area,” Foggo said.

"KFOR is central to our efforts, and we aim to keep relations healthy and robust with neighboring senior national leaders through our NATO liaison offices in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Skopje.”

Foggo’s visit included a tour of Mitrovica’s Trepča mine, the area’s largest economic enterprise, currently producing lead, zinc and silver and employing some 2,000 people of Northern Kosovo’s 80,000-person population.  

More than 90 percent of Northern Kosovo is ethnically Serbian, whereas nationwide Kosovo’s 1.9 million people are more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian.  While tensions between the two ethnicities have eased significantly since the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, they remain more acute in Kosovo’s northern area.  Prominent Kosovo-Serb politician Oliver Ivanović was assassinated January 16 in Mitrovica, Northern Kosovo’s largest city in which ethnic rivalry remains an everyday reality.

While at NATO’s Camp Nothing Hill, home to troops who patrol Northern Kosovo, Foggo received an operational update from Cuoci’s staff and offered words of praise.  He also addressed 18 Kosovar journalists.

"Our KFOR troops help provide a secure environment in Kosovo in order for the people here to enjoy the freedom they deserve to conduct business, raise families and increase their standard of living for the future,” Foggo said. "I’m proud of their contribution to Kosovo’s people, the region and our NATO alliance.”

NATO’s Kosovo Force remains its longest ongoing operation.  It is headquartered out of capitol city Pristina, and comprises more than 4,000 troops from 28 nations.

Story by JFC Naples Public Affairs Office

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