Spain, US end spat over Kosovo: Madrid

22nd March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain's government said Saturday it had cleared up a misunderstanding with Washington over the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Kosovo.

MADRID - "Once it was it was explained that (the withdrawal) was going to be done in a fully coordinated manner, the reaction of the United States and our allies was one of complete understanding," said Bernardino Leon, the top aide to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"A page has been turned... this little storm has passed," he told private radio Cadena Ser.

He spoke after a "very positive and fruitful" meeting in Washington late Friday with US National Security Adviser General James Jones.

Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Thursday some 630 Spanish troops with the NATO-led force in Kosovo would be leaving the territory in stages by August in coordination with its allies, saying: "It's time to go home."

The United States responded Friday by saying it was "deeply disappointed and surprised."

Zapatero insisted Friday he was pulling Spanish troops out of Kosovo because security had improved and Madrid's role made no sense as it did not recognise the territory.

Spain has declined to recognise Kosovo out of concern that it might set a precedent for separatists at home.

Leon also told reporters on his return to Spain Saturday that it was "premature" to talk of increasing the country's military contingent in Afghanistan.

He said Madrid would await a "new strategy" on the war-torn country to be unveiled by NATO soon.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said last month that sending more troops to Afghanistan, as Washington is seeking, "is not a solution" to resolving the country's problems.

But Spanish media has speculated that Madrid may decide to up its 780-member contingent, part of the 70,000-strong force from 40 countries under NATO auspices.

AFP / Expatica

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