PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, Sept 28 (AFP) -
NATO is committed to upholding security in Kosovo and does not expect any escalation of violence during long-awaited talks on the final status of the Serbian province, US Admiral Harry Ulrich said Wednesday.
"NATO is absolutely committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all citizens here," Ulrich said during a one-day visit to Kosovo.
Admiral Ulrich, who is commander of NATOs joint force command based in Naples, met with officials from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR), the United Nations Mission (UNMIK) and senior local officials.
"KFOR will carry out its mission," the US Admiral said, stressing that he "absolutely" did not expect any escalation of the situation during the talks, which are expected to start in the coming weeks.
As Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Admiral Ulrich currently has operational responsibility for NATO missions in the Balkans, Iraq and the Mediterranean.
Over 17,000 NATO-led peacekeepers from 35 nations are responsible for peace and security in the UN run province.
Albanian-majority Kosovo came under United Nations control in June 1999 after NATO forces bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in a bid to end a brutal crackdown by Serb forces on separatist Albanians.
The key issue in the status negotiations, finally taking place more than six years after the Kosovo war ended, is whether or not the Serbian province should be allowed to become independent.
Pristina says it is not even willing to discuss the subject with Belgrade, which remains vehemently opposed to any form of independence.