Army chief wants safety zones dismantled

Serbia will seek the abolishing of the Ground and Air Safety Zones through a revision of the Kumanovo agreement, the army chief says.

Source: Beta, Blic

The agreement in question ended 78 days of NATO attacks on Serbia in 1999, establishing the buffer zones on the administrative line between Kosovo and central Serbia.

Serbian Army (VS) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Zdravko Ponoš told Blic newspaper in an interview on Sunday that he received signals and confirmation that NATO is ready to start expert talks on the subject.

The return of Serbian troops "even to northern Kosovo", according to the daily's article, is not a subject of negotiations at this point.

"In Brussels, I held talks with NATO commander-in.chief General Craddock, while in Naples I met with Admiral Fitzgerald, and told them that the Kumanovo agreement, nine years after the war, no longer makes sense, and that there should be no buffer zone between NATO and Serbian Army forces," Ponoš told the daily.

"In the meantime, we joined the Partnership for Peace, signed the security agreement and demonstrated that we respect the Kumanovo agreement and Resolution 1244 provisions, there has not been a single, not even unintentional, breach of the administrative line from our side for the past four years, and the VS has established a high level of trust with KFOR."

That trust, however, declined with NATO's decision to have KFOR engaged in the setting up of the so-called Kosovo security forces, Ponoš said, and added that it is now up to NATO to make a move "that would demonstrate that Serbia is treated like a partner".

The army chief said that there are "many security risks inside the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, but that their nature is not such that they should be solved with primary use of military force".

"The establishment of the so-called Kosovo security forces, although lightly armed, formally disturbs the regional balance of power, and is outside the Vienna agreements on arms control, and the Deyton accords. President Tadić's position about an increase, instead of a decrease in the number of troops certainly carries a political message that Serbia, a key country in the region, must be an active participant in all processes," Ponoš said.


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