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Germany to maintain troopsin Kosovo and Bosnia

6 April 2004

PRISTINA – Germany will maintain its 3,800 troops serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, until conflict in the province is resolved, German Defence Minister, Peter Struck, said Monday.

“Until the problem is solved we will keep our troops here and maintain our support for KFOR,” Struck said through an interpreter, adding that the international standards set for Kosovo need to be fulfilled and maintained.

Struck also said that the European Union should take more responsibility in Kosovo, but stressed that despite a possible increase of the EU role in Kosovo, the role of the German army, or Budeswehr, in the region would not change.

“The role of German forces here will be as it is. We are already playing the most important role here with our armed forces. We are contributing the most troops, around 4,000,” Struck said.

“We are also contributing troops in Bosnia and from the beginning of next year, when the EU takes over in Bosnia we will maintain our troops in Bosnia and also here,” he added.

Germany last month deployed an additional 600 troops in Kosovo after the outbreak of ethnic unrest, in which 19 people were killed and over 600 were injured.

“The German government is very disappointed with the recent events of mid-March which resulted in a setback of efforts of the international community in Kosovo,” Struck said commenting on the events.

Struck met Monday with KFOR commander, German general Holger Kammerhoff, in KFOR headquarters in Pristina. He then flew by helicopter to the town of Prizren, some 70 kilometres south of Pristina, to visit German troops who are stationed in southern Kosovo.

However an influential German army officer has publicly expressed his doubt over Germany’s role in Kosovo, saying the province has become Europe’s capital of organized crime, despite the efforts of KFOR troops.

“It’s getting harder and harder to explain the sense of serving in Kosovo,” Colonel Berhard Gertz who heads the German Armed Forces Association – a high-profile lobby group for troops – said in a Die Welt newspaper interview.

He painted a grim picture of Kosovo after last month’s violence between ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs and voiced doubts over the ability of NATO-led peacekeepers to build a multi-ethnic society there.

“We have to ponder whether the Kosovo concept – which is supposed to yield peaceful relations with Albanians and Serbs living together – can still be realized,” said Gertz.

The latest events made this doubtful, said Gertz, adding that this meant a re-evaluation of the military presence was needed.

Gertz noted the violence had been planned and carried out with military precision but that NATO intelligence had failed to pick up any advance warning.

“This does not bode well for KFOR troops being able to contain future unrest,” Gertz said.

Meanwhile, French Defence Minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie, who visited Kosovo last week also pledged that some 3,500 French troops will remain in Kosovo as long as they are needed.



Subject: German news