Jun 13, 2019

Kosovo: Marking 20 Years of Independence

U.S. President Bill Clinton, ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former NATO commander Wesley Clark visited Pristina to take part in the celebrations for the anniversary of NATO intervention in Kosovo, which set an end to the country’s struggle against  the Serb  regime and led to its independence. Now, after 20 years, relations with Serbia have yet to be restored and the former Yugoslav province still lacks full international recognition.

The article below was published by Euronews:

NATO's ground troops arrived in Kosovo 20 years ago after the alliance ousted Serbian forces in a 78-day air campaign that ended one of Europe's most violent conflicts.

NATO still has a peacekeeping mission in the country, but the path to independence for Kosovo has been difficult.

Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo's independence even 20 years after Belgrade lost control of its former province.

Euronews spoke to former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark about the legacy of NATO's intervention.

"NATO used force as a last last last resort in the face of the ethnic cleansing to stop the ethnic cleansing and to force a diplomatic solution," Clark told Euronews from Pristina, Kosovo.

Clark was in Pristina, Kosovo for anniversary celebrations along with former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"I remember the angst of the NATO ambassadors when it became clear that there was no alternative but to use force to bring Milosevic back to the negotiating table," Clark continued.

Clark called the air campaign, entitled Operation Allied Force, "NATO's most successful operation" and defended NATO's decision to intervene in the conflict without a UN resolution.

He said that "technically" nations were authorised to deal with the refugee crisis and called the intervention the "use of diplomacy backed by force".

NATO's bombing campaign resulted in at least 500 civilian casualties, according to the non-profit Human Rights Watch which documented 90 separate incidents of civilian casualties in a report released in 2000.

Clark said that he sees hope for the future of the two countries, stating that "perhaps in a distant future after memories have faded, more progress can be made diplomatically".

But tensions between the two countries rose recently after police in Kosovo arrested Serbs in northern Kosovo as part of an anti-smuggling mission.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the NATO intervention this week as "the 19 most powerful countries attacking a small country committed to freedom," according to AFP.


Photo courtesy of Visar Kryeziu/ The Military Times