ŠTRPCE, Kosovo - The commander in charge of NATO military activity in the Western Balkans visited a predominantly Serbian city in eastern Kosovo March 29.
Along with Kosovo Force commander, Italian Major General Lorenzo D’Addario, commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, U.S. Navy Admiral James Foggo spent a day engaging the people and community of Štrpce.
The visit came just days after Serbs and Albanians in both Kosovo and Serbia noted 20 years since NATO began its air campaign to end ethnic violence in what was then known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The air campaign began March 24, 1999 and ended June 11 that year.
A NATO-led stabilization and peacekeeping effort began the next day, in what eventually became Kosovo Force, or KFOR. The KFOR peacekeeping mission maintained at its peak more than 50,000 troops and is now manned with less than 4,000.
Supporting the commanders’ visit was Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Dalibor Jevtic and Štrpce Mayor Bratislav Nicolic.
"I want to assure all of you that NATO’s KFOR mission is to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens in Kosovo, as mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244,” said Foggo during a press conference with Jevtic and Nicolic. "Our KFOR mission has made an important contribution to stability in the greater Western Balkans region.”
Foggo and D’Addario also visited a local construction site and food processing facility. Jevtic and Nicolic noted that a market economy and economic growth can only advance with a secure environment. That environment is shaped by the Kosovo Police, the Kosovo Security Force, the European Union Rule of Law Mission, and the NATO-led KFOR.
During the day’s activities, Foggo and D’Addario visited KFOR’s Štrpce-based Liaison and Monitoring Team, manned by Polish soldiers, and its Joint Regional Detachment, commanded by a Turkish colonel. According to the European Union, the Strpce police station was the first multi-ethnic police station in Kosovo, and sets an example for other communities of Serbs and Albanians. Overall, Kosovo is more than 80 percent Albanian.
NATO supports the peaceful coexistence of all nationalities and ethnicities. As such, NATO advocates for the resumption of the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina as the only lasting political solution for the region.
Story by JFC Naples Public Affairs Office