Belgrade, 23 January 2008 – Italy will send an additional 560 peacekeepers to the NATO-led international force in Kosovo (KFOR), a KFOR spokesman said in Kosovo on Wednesday.
The spokesman told a regular press conference in the Kosovo capital Pristina that starting Feb. 4 until March 4, a battalion of 560 peacekeepers from Italy would be deployed in Kosovo, the Serbian official news agency Tanjug reported.
The spokesman said that the arrival of fresh KFOR troops in the central and northern parts of the province cannot be linked to the process of determining the status of Kosovo, but is a regular exercise of the KFOR operative reserve contingent.
However, Kosovo’s sources said that both KFOR and Kosovo Police Service (KPS) have special plans mapped out for every possible outcome and potential worsening of the security situation in case of declaring independence by the Kosovo parliament.
It has been agreed that the KPS will respond to any minor incidents and that the KFOR will tackle more serious conflicts or incidents, regardless of whether Albanians or Serbs are involved, Serbia’s B92 radio reported.
Kosovo has been run by a U.N. administration since NATO bombing drove Serbian forces out of the ethnic Albanian-dominated province in 1999.
Following failed talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the future status of the province, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders have vowed to unilaterally declare independence in early 2008. The move is supported by Washington and major powers of the European Union, but is opposed by Serbia and Russia.
Radio Kosovo reported on Wednesday that the independence of Kosovo will be declared two weeks later.
Citing sources close to the Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Radio Kosovo said that the document on declaration of independence will be adopted on Feb. 6 in the Kosovo’s parliament, which would be followed by recognition by other countries.
UNMIK: Kosovo: Press Briefing Transcript for briefing of 23 Jan 2008
KFOR Chief PIO Col. Bertrand Bonneau
“The Italian Operational Reserve Force (ORF) Battalion will conduct training in Kosovo from 04 February to 04 March 2008. The Italian ORF Battalion is mainly from the 7th Alpini Regiment located in Belluno, in the Venice area. It has 560-soldiers. The ORF Battalion started its deployment on January 21st in the area of responsibility of MNTF W. During the training phase it will exercise in the areas of responsibility of MNTF C and MNTF N. Such deployments are planned to ensure that NATO troops and Reserve Forces Headquarters are well trained and familiar with the Kosovo environment. It also serves to demonstrate NATO’s ability to reinforce in-theatre NATO forces at very short notice. The Italian ORF Battalion has already conducted training in the KFOR area in 2006 and last summer.
A German ORF Battalion has also been deployed to Kosovo in 2006 and during spring and winter 2007. During these types of deployments, ORF battalion practice operational concepts and familiarize the troops with the terrain and environment. These reserves are designed to be a mobile, versatile force to augment in-theatre forces in order to deal with any security contingency. They indeed regularly deploy, operate, and train in Kosovo as part of routine operations.”