Security situation in Kosovo is still 'somewhat volatile,' commander says
June 16, 2005
Security in Kosovo is the best it has been since NATO peacekeepers arrived, but the situation is still “somewhat volatile,” according to the commander of Kosovo Force.
French Lt. Gen. Yves de Kermabon addressed reporters the day before the sixth anniversary of the June 11 establishment of KFOR, when he said maintaining a secure environment will be critical over the course of the coming progress assessment.
“Our commitment to ‘a safe and secure environment’ is essential for the coming comprehensive review and talks on the status,” a transcript of de Kermabon’s statement reads. “We all know that perception of security remains a problem and leads to mainly self-imposed limits on freedom of movement, and we all have to stay vigilant and ready to react to prevent any upsurge of violence.”
Such problems were evident Monday, according to news reports, when hundreds of Serbs twice blocked a bridge in the province’s ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, that was opened for the first time since the war.
U.N. police had wanted to allow civilian cars to cross between the Serbian and Albanian sides of the town for an hour twice a day in a bid to end the town’s division. But on the first day of the experiment, around 300 Serbs blocked the path of the first car to approach from the southern, mainly Albanian side, a Reuters report said.
The bridge was closed again, but a U.N. spokesman said they would continue to increase access, the report said.
U.S. troops have been in Kosovo since the 1999 bombing campaign to halt Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing in the province. About 2,000 U.S. troops now patrol Multinational Division-East.
KFOR commanders say talks on the province’s future, including whether Kosovo will become independent, may be a flash point for unrest in the region. The date of the talks has yet to be set.
But so far, the situation remains “calm but fragile,” in the U.S.-led area of KFOR, the MNB-East commander said.
“For the most part, everybody gets along well here,” said Brig. Gen. William Wade.
The region remains beset by poor infrastructure, unemployment and a sunken economy, he said, but tensions in U.S.-patrolled area are still slack.
“It’s still steady-state operations for us,” Wade said.