NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, met with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia at NATO Headquarters on Wednesday, saying he was glad to have the opportunity to continue discussions on the recent escalation of tensions in northern Kosovo.
“NATO continues to monitor closely the situation on the ground, our KFOR peacekeeping mission remains focused on its UN mandate: Should stability be jeopardized, KFOR stands ready to intervene,” Stoltenberg told a joint press conference following the pairs meeting.
Vučić said he discussed the recent in events in Kosovo with Stoltenberg and expressed his gratitude to him for wanting to hear Serbia’s position.
“We explained our position, I presented a list of Pristina’s special units’ raids in the north which needed permission for that, a list of all incidents and attacks on the Serb population, it is our duty to talk about our position and to do everything in order to preserve peace and stability,” Vučić reiterated.
He also added that Serbia “will continue to respect the KFOR mandate in line with international norms, and I believe that both Stoltenberg and the whole of NATO will show understanding. For Serbia peace and stability are of vital importance”.
While it is promising Stoltenberg has offered a forum to discuss Vucic’s concerns, and that both can meet on amicable terms, it is also worth noting that NATO has a history of hearing without listening, and if there are ulterior goals for Atlantacists in the Balkans, then as was the case with Russia’s security concerns in Ukraine, Vučić’s grievances may fall on deaf ears.
Vucic is also today (18th August) meeting with Kosovo PM, Albin Kurti, in Brussels, a meeting which on Wednesday Vucic said would be difficult.
“We practically agree on nothing, but we will stick to international law, to the Brussels Agreement, as for our bilateral relations, I told Stoltenberg that Serbia is a military neutral country and that it will not take sides in the sense of blocs”, Vučić said.
In contrast to Vučić’s tone, his counterpart Kurti has been more combative in his assertions. Last week Kurti declared Kosovo is “vigilant, but not afraid” of a conflict with Serbia. “Kosovo is a state now, this is not the year 1998”, he added, “this is 2022, so we are much more prepared to defend our sovereignty, territorial integrity, to defend our democracy, rule of law, constitutionality, and to defend our progress”.
That Vučić may be easing his tone in the presence of Stoltenberg in the aim of gaining favour, is also quite possible, as some commentators have noted the threat of armed confrontations between to two is still currently low, and that both PMs will take this opportunity to score points on the world stage.
Irrespective of motivations, the civility of Vučić’s meeting with Stoltenberg will be promising for regional observers, with hopes that the same level headedness might be exhibited by both Kurti and Vučić on Thursday.