KFOR not to remove barricade on bridge in Mitrovica

KFOR Commander Volker Halbauer has stated that KFOR will not remove the barricade on the main bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica since it is a political symbol, and this issue has to be resolved politically.

(kosovocompromisestuff) Sunday, June 23, 2013

As the KFOR commander, I am responsible for a secure environment and the freedom of movement, and from my point of view the freedom of movement is not limited by this obstacle on the bridge, Halbauer said on Friday at a press conference after a meeting with Kosovska Mitrovica Municipal President Dragisa Vlaskovic on Friday. KFOR will not remove this obstacle, but if all sides call for its removal then we will be ready to provide our bulldogger, the KFOR commander said. He said that he has trust both in Pristina and Belgrade that this issue will be resolved soon. Vlaskovic underlined that the removal of the barricade depends on Serbs, adding that it will be removed once they are certain that they, their children and families are completely safe. He said that now is not the right time for the removal of barricades, particularly not because the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations is underway and still uncertain what the outcome would be like. “I think that at the moment the people are very afraid for their own safety and the safety of their children and property, and that it is not the right time for the removal of the barricade”, Vlaskovic said, stressing that it is crucial that KFOR will not remove the barricade by force. Vlaskovic and the KFOR commander also discussed the security issues and living conditions of Serbs in north Kosovo. Vlaskovic said that he got a promise from General Halbauer that he will help in resolving the problem of water supply. Vlaskovic underlined that Serbs in this area only want the institutions of the Republic of Serbia, and for them the institutions of the so-called republic of Kosovo do not exist. “I hope that in the talks with the general we will continue to work on the improvement of security conditions in north Kosovo,” Vlaskovic said, stressing that this is in the interest of all citizens. The KFOR commander said that this military mission is focused on its operative role, and that it does not take any stand in terms of political issues. We call on the people in Kosovo to believe in their political authorities and community leaders in order to have peaceful and non-violent political processes, Halbauer said. The commander said that at the moment he is not thinking about the reduction of the number of KFOR soldiers, noting that in 1999 their number stood at 50,000 while today there are 5,500 of them. General Halbauer said that depending on the positive development of the situation and events in the future, KFOR will decide how much to reduce the number of soldiers.