March 8 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discouraged Kosovo's president from moving forward with plans to create a full national army during a recent meeting.
According to Stoltenberg, the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force, or KSF, into a fully armed body may further alienate its neighbor Serbia. The top NATO official called the move "unhelpful," and urged Kosovo's president Hashim Thaci to maintain close contact with the Serbian government.
"NATO has supported the development of the KSF as a professional, increasingly multi-ethnic force," Stoltenberg said in a statement. "However, should the mandate of the KSF now evolve in the way proposed, NATO will have to review its level of commitment, particularly in terms of capacity-building."
The United States Embassy in Kosovo echoed the Secretary General's position, saying Thaci's government should take a more lawful approach in bolstering its defensive capabilities.
"The United States is concerned by Kosovo's announced intention to change the mandate of the Kosovo Security Force without a constitutional amendment," the embassy's statement read. "However, this transformation should be done in accordance with the Kosovo Constitution."
In a press conference delivered after the meeting with Stoltenberg, Thaci maintained his country would be unable to join the NATO alliance without modernizing Kosovo's security forces. The plan, he argued, is full within his constitutional authority as president.
"This legal initiative, which was undertaken in coordination with state institutions of Kosovo, I consider it necessary to advance the role and tasks of the Kosovo Security Force," he said.
Kosovo's national sovereignty has been hotly disputed since the country declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. The move has been supported by the United States and the European Union, and opposed by Russia and its ally Serbia.
Tensions between the neighboring states have risen in response to a perceived provocation by ethnic Albanians traveling on a train between both nations.