Kosovo lawmakers agree to consider creating national army

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Lawmakers in Kosovo have agreed to consider whether to transform the country’s security forces into a regular army.

The 120-seat parliament voted Thursday to accept the government’s proposals and refer them to commissions for debate before bringing forward legislation.

Not everyone wants the change to take place. The debate was boycotted by lawmakers representing Kosovo’s Serb minority while officials in Serbia criticized the plan.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 from Serbia, a move that Belgrade has refused to recognize. The two former foes have to normalize their relations if they are ever to become members of the European Union.

International support for a Kosovo army is unclear.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci withdrew the same proposals late last year following pressure from NATO and the United States. And in Belgrade, the chief government negotiator in EU-mediated talks with Kosovo Marko Djuric, warned of “unforeseeable consequences” for regional security and urged international reaction.

“Serbia will protect its interests on the whole of its territory,” warned Djuric.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said in a statement the only armed forces in Kosovo must be NATO-led peacekeepers and that a Kosovo army would serve to “threaten Serbia and the Serbs.”

NATO deployed in Kosovo in 1999 after the alliance bombed Serbia to stop its crackdown against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian separatists.

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