The German parliament has approved an extension to the armed forces' mandate in Kosovo for another year, but MPs have warned of a prolonged presence in the former Serbian province.
Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, will be able to keep their NATO contingent in Kosovo for another year, the German parliament decided on Friday. All parties agreed to the extension, apart from the Left party, which is opposed to all foreign missions of the Bundeswehr.
With 1,300 troops, Germany provides the lion's share of the 6,200-strong KFOR NATO mission in Kosovo. The extension of the mandate allows for a maximum German troop presence in Kosovo of 1,850. The costs for this year are expected to come in at around 68 million euros ($85.6 million). Kosovo is the Bundeswehr's second-largest foreign mission after Afghanistan.
Five hundred members of the contingent are part of a special German-Austrian reserve force that was briefly mobilized last summer when tensions surfaced again between Serbia and Kosovo, as the 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo refuse to recognize the government in Pristina.
The former province declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Belgrade opposed.
No change in Serbian policy
Serbia's nationalist president-elect, Tomislav Nikolic, has vowed to stand by Serbia's claim over the predominantly ethnic Albanian region despite calls from the EU to show "statesmanship" in fostering good relations with Kosovo.
After the elections in Serbia, Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga urged "the newly elected president of the neighboring country of Serbia to do what his predecessors have not done, to find the courage and to take steps to establish good and peaceful relations with Kosovo."
Nikolic was in government with the late Slobodan Milosevic in 1999 when Serbian forces expelled almost one million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and NATO intervened with airstrikes.
ng/tj (Reuters, dpa, dapd, AFP)