Press Release (2000)018
The North Atlantic Council met this morning to discuss the situation in Kosovo, and particularly in Kosovska-Mitrovica. SACEUR, General Clark, was present at the meeting and we also received an assessment of the situation on the ground directly from General Reinhardt, the KFOR commander, via a video conference link.
The first point I want to emphasize is that the situation in Kosovo is under control. The situation in Mitrovica today is calm. There have been no confrontations between Serbs and Albanians since 13 February. KFOR has dealt with the situation firmly and even-handedly. It will continue to do so. Extremists on all sides will be dealt with without fear or favour. Mitrovica is a potential flashpoint; it flared up but we dealt with the unrest quickly and decisively.
This morning the North Atlantic Council reaffirmed the solidarity of NATO and our willingess to act collectively and firmly against anyone who attempts to disturb the peace in Kosovo. As last week's events showed, we were able to send reinforcements to Mitrovica immediately. Those troops had the training, equipment and leadership to restore order quickly. The North Atlantic Council today expressed its full support to General Reinhardt and his troops.
NATO also fully supports the joint efforts of KFOR and the UN Administration, UNMIK, to promote a united Mitrovica. They are working hand in hand to re-establish and maintain law and order throughout the city. UNMIK is going ahead with a plan to return many Kosovar families to their homes in the northern area of the city. Together with the UNMIK police, KFOR is conducting, and will continue to conduct visible joint security operations. We will not tolerate no-go areas, barriers, cantons or other divisions. At the same there is an urgent need to increase the quantity of UNMIK police and to strengthen the judicial system. KFOR will continue to search for illegal weapons. We have the capability, flexibility and determination to deal with trouble makers from all sides.
We are determined to keep KFOR at the right strength to allow it to carry out all its security tasks in Kosovo. Work is in hand urgently to review what more we need to do. Some additional forces have already been offered and force levels are under constant review.
KFOR will carry out its mission to maintain the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo. It will resist robustly any challenge to its authority.
As we approach the first anniversary of Operation Allied Force, I wish to stress once more that NATO's mission in Kosovo is a success. Over the past eight months, hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees have returned to their homes under the protection of KFOR. Schools have reopened, infrastructure and homes have been rebuilt and power supplies reconnected. The number of ethnic attacks have gone down. The crime rate in January was at its lowest since KFOR entered Kosovo last year. A civilian authority under the UN has been established.
Last week's situation in Mitrovica, however much of immediate concern, should not make us overlook the achievements of KFOR and the international community. We will not relent in our political determination to complete the job of creating a democratic, stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo.