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Kosovo Votes to Form Army, Angering Serbia


Soldiers of the Kosovo Security Force line up at the end of a formation ceremony in Pristina, Dec. 14, 2018. Kosovo's parliament convened Friday to approve the formation of an army.

Kosovo's parliament has voted to convert and expand its lightly armed security force into a standing army, a move backed by the United States but opposed by neighboring Serbia.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic responded by saying Belgrade would request an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over the vote. He called it the "most direct threat to peace and stability in the region."

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Thursday that Kosovo, a former Serbian province, did not have the right to form an army. Serbia's government does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

Last week, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic suggested that Belgrade might respond to the vote with military intervention. On Friday, she told reporters that a Kosovar army would not contribute to regional stability.

"It is better to sit down and talk about how we can build a different future, rather than look at how we can raise barriers," she said, according to CNN.

The plan approved Friday would convert the 3,000-member security force to a 5,000-member army with 3,000 more troops in reserve.

Kosovo's lawmaking body voted Friday without the participation of 11 lawmakers from the Serb minority of the republic.

Soldiers of the Kosovo Security Force are pictured in Pristina, Dec. 14, 2018. Kosovo's parliament convened on Friday to approve the formation of an army, a move that has angered Serbia, which says it would threaten peace in the war-scarred region.
Soldiers of the Kosovo Security Force are pictured in Pristina, Dec. 14, 2018. Kosovo's parliament convened on Friday to approve the formation of an army, a move that has angered Serbia, which says it would threaten peace in the war-scarred region.

Dominated by an ethnic Albanian majority, the Republic of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and formed an independent government that is not universally recognized. The United States, European Union, Britain, Canada and Australia are among the governments that recognize Kosovo as independent.

NATO has maintained a peacekeeping force in Kosovo since the bloody Kosovo War 20 years ago that led to independence. But on Friday, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg criticized the move to form an army.

Stoltenberg tweeted after the vote that NATO had made clear its concerns. He added, "All sides must ensure that today's decision will not further increase tensions in the region."

He added that NATO must now reassess its level of engagement with the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo known as KFOR. The 4,000-member force includes about 600 U.S. soldiers.

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