Analysis: How Turkish peacekeepers became a beacon of hope for Kosovo - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: How Turkish peacekeepers became a beacon of hope for Kosovo

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NATO and the local population have praised Türkiye for deploying additional troops in the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo after the recent flare-up of violence in the Balkan nation.

In the sweltering heat of July 1999, Turkish soldiers embarked on a mission to Kosovo as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Balkans. Their arrival in the war-torn land brought hope to the local population, weary from the ravages of a violent conflict that had torn their lives apart.

As the Turkish soldiers crossed the border into Kosovo, they were met with joy and relief. Kosovars, who had endured unimaginable suffering, lined the streets, their faces filled with gratitude and happiness. The air reverberated with cheers and applause as the soldiers’ vehicles made their way through the welcoming crowd.

In a heartwarming display of solidarity, Kosovars waved Turkish flags as they embraced the soldiers, their gestures conveying a profound sense of gratitude for the help that had arrived from Türkiye.

Among the cities that received Turkish soldiers was Prizren, a city in the southern part of the country.

The presence of Turkish soldiers brought a sense of security to the local population, reassuring them that peace was finally within reach.

Over time, as the scars of war slowly faded, the Turkish soldiers became one of the most important symbols of hope and resilience in Kosovo. Their commitment to peace and unwavering dedication to the task at hand inspired the local population, encouraging them to look forward to a brighter future.

Present tense

However, tension has risen again in Kosovo in recent years, especially among ethnic Serbs.

The young Balkan country, which gained independence in 2008, has been experiencing internal and external threats against its fragile stability.

Serbia and Kosovo have been at odds for decades, with Belgrade refusing to recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

The violence along their border has stirred fears of a rerun of the 1998-99 conflict that claimed more than 10,000 lives and resulted in the deployment of the KFOR peacekeeping mission.

Türkiye was one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s sovereignty and has maintained close relations with the country since the late 1990s.

Most recently, violent clashes between the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and ethnic Serbs living on the country’s northern side left 30 international soldiers, 11 Italians and 19 Hungarians wounded. Many of them suffered fractures and burns from improvised incendiary devices.

The clashes grew out of a confrontation that unfolded earlier after Serbs blocked ethnic Albanian officials – elected in an election overwhelmingly boycotted by Serbs – from entering municipal buildings to take charge.

Last month, Kosovo Serbs boycotted extraordinary local government elections for four municipalities in the country’s north. According to the Kosovo Central Election Commission, only 3.47 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

After the elections, the EU said in a statement that low turnout did not provide municipalities with long-term political solutions.

“The only way to reduce tension and establish lasting peace and stability in the region is to make progress in the ongoing dialogue process,” the statement concluded.

Turkish troops to rescue again

After the clashes, NATO announced that it would send 700 additional troops to bolster the force in the area. KFOR currently consists of almost 3,800 soldiers, including some 350 from Türkiye.

Türkiye has reinforced its peacekeeping mission with about 500 more soldiers supporting KFOR.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “I thank Türkiye for sending reinforcements to northern Kosovo following the recent unrest” in the region, following a meeting in Istanbul with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mehmet Kalisi, professor of communications at Macedonia’s State University of Tetova, also feels that the additional troop deployment by Türkiye would not only ensure security and stability but also raises hopes of de-escalation of the situation.

“Türkiye is an important country not only for stability and security in Kosovo but also in the entire Balkan region,” Kalisi tells TRT World.

Türkiye possesses all the necessary political and military capacities to help and perhaps play a decisive role in maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo, he says.

Mentioning President Erdogan’s phone calls with leaders of both countries, Kalisi says these conversations had a significant impact on reducing tensions between the parties.

He feels that Türkiye will play a significant role in securing an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia and, alongside the US, will play a determinant role in the region’s future.

“There is no longer any dilemma among all factions in the Balkans that Türkiye is a very reliable partner, thanks to the policy of President Erdogan, who in the region is seen as a statesman who keeps his word,” he adds.

Old wounds

The discord concerning Kosovo dates back hundreds of years, with Serbians upholding the area as fundamental to its nation-state and religion.

Kosovo was historically under the ancient Serbian kingdom, the Ottoman Empire and, more recently, the former Yugoslavia.

Today an estimated 50,000 Serbs living in Kosovo’s north refuse to recognise institutions under the capital Pristina and typically use license plates and documentation issued by Serbian authorities.

Turkish security analyst Abdullah Agar thinks deploying more Turkish soldiers to the peacekeeping mission will contribute to stability.


Agar suggests that more constructive policies should be implemented by considering both sides’ interests.

He also underlined TAF’s proven record in highly sensitive conflict regions like Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, even soldiers from other nations who were on duty under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) carried the Turkish flag in their military vehicles in order not to face any threat,” Agar adds.

On the other hand, Agar says Turkish President Erdogan has positively impacted both countries.

Longstanding contributor to peace missions

Türkiye has long been providing uniformed personnel to the UN missions in Lebanon, South Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Kosovo, Sudan and Somalia.

Türkiye participated in peacekeeping operations during the Korean War for the first time. Since then, Türkiye has contributed to these operations in line with its capabilities.

Türkiye has been contributing military personnel, police officers and experts to the UN peacekeeping operations deployed in various locations worldwide.

Along with direct involvement in operations, Türkiye also one of the important financial contributors to the UN peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding efforts

“One of the main objectives of Turkish foreign policy is to contribute to establish and maintain peace and stability in its region and beyond, ” which is set as a policy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye.

On the other hand, Türkiye is also a significant contributor to the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), which has an important role in providing coordinated efforts and sustainable support to post-conflict countries, especially for strengthening civilian capacity.

It has been designated a “contributor” by the alliance because of missions in Afghanistan, as it supports the war-torn country’s efforts to ensure peace and stability.

“We continue to contribute to the security of our brothers and sisters with our soldiers operating within the NATO mission providing training and equipment support to Afghan security forces,” former Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in March.

Türkiye was involved in NATO missions in Afghanistan to support and ensure the security of the Afghan Interim Administration in 2001.

From June 2002 to February 2003, Türkiye took control of ISAF’s second term of command from the UK with 1,300 personnel.

It also assumed leadership of ISAF-VII in 2005 while operating the Kabul International Airport, which was under the NATO command and control structure.

During its leadership, Türkiye deployed 1,430 military personnel and three utility helicopters to Afghanistan.

Source: TRTWorld

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