NATO diplomats confirmed that the Gazimestan Monument, at the 1389 “Kosovo Polje” battle field, would be the first structure to change hands. It was here that Slobodan Milosevic, before becoming the last leader of Yugoslavia, whipped up Serb nationalist sentiment in an infamous speech in 1989.
The other eight buildings currently guarded by NATO-led KFOR soldiers are monasteries. Nato refuses to disclose the exact order in which they are to be handed over to the Kosovars or to EULEX, the EU’s 2,000-strong rule of law mission in the former Serb province.
During riots in 2004, NATO failed to prevent the destruction of some monuments. The most important buildings were put under strong KFOR protection afterwards.
Reducing KFOR in Kosovo will be a topic for discussion during this week’s informal meeting of NATO defence ministers in Istanbul. After completion of the first phase, NATO now has 10,200 soldiers in Kosovo, less than a quarter of its original strength in 1990.
NATO intends to restrict its presence to what it calls a “deterrent posture” and has made it clear that it considers essential the separation of tasks between the different security structures in the country.
In case of riots, NATO will not act as “first respondent” but will be ready to move into action if the situation escalates.
Correction: The story originally said KFOR is handing over the monuments to the Kosovo Security forces (KSF), which is not the case