NATO says it is ready to send more troops into Kosovo as Pristina, Belgrade trade blame over violence
PHOTO CAPTION: Italian members of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) stand guard behind wire fencing, in Leposavic, Kosovo, June 1, 2023. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
OSLO (Reuters) - NATO is prepared to deploy more troops to Kosovo to quell violence in the ethnically polarized north, the alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, adding that the first 700 reinforcement troops are on the way there.
"NATO will remain vigilant. We will be there to ensure a safe and secure environment, and also to calm down and reduce tensions", he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Oslo.
Unrest in Kosovo's north has intensified since ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the region's Serb-majority area after April elections boycotted by the Serbs, a move that led the U.S. and its allies to rebuke Pristina.
NATO decided to boost its 4,000-strong mission in the region with 700 additional troops after 30 of its KFOR peacekeepers and 52 ethnic Serb protesters were hurt on Monday.
Stoltenberg called the violence against NATO troops "totally unacceptable" and said allies were readying more troops in case NATO needed to send additional reinforcements to the region.
"Our message both to Belgrade and to Pristina is that they have to have engage in good faith in the EU-facilitated dialogue," he added.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Bart Meijer)