Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani has asked US President Joe Biden to use Washington’s influence within NATO member states to help her country join the military alliance.
In a letter sent to Biden dated March 10th and seen by Reuters on Thursday, Osmani said that in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, joining NATO was her main national security priority.
“Kosovo’s membership in NATO has become an imperative,” Osmani said in her letter.
“We express our faith and expectation that the US will use its leadership and influence to actively support and advance the complex process of NATO membership for Kosovo,” Osmani wrote.
Washington remains Kosovo’s main supporter, both politically and financially, since the small Balkan nation declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
“We are exposed to persistent efforts by Russia to undermine Kosovo and destabilize the entire Western Balkans,” Osmani wrote.
A NATO official said the organization remained committed to its peacekeeping operation in Kosovo, adding that membership decisions were a matter for the North Atlantic Council.
“All decisions by NATO – including those related to membership – are taken by the North Atlantic Council (NATO’s only decision-making body), by unanimous vote,” the official said.
There are currently 3,770 NATO troops in Kosovo, of whom 600 are from the United States.
Serbia and its traditional ally Russia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and Moscow has blocked the country’s bid to become a member of the United Nations. Belgrade considers Kosovo part of its territory, although it has no state institutions in its former breakaway province.
However, some 50,000 Serbs who live in the northern part of Kosovo bordering Serbia – and who are backed by Belgrade – refuse to recognize Kosovo’s authorities and want partition along ethnic lines in order to unite with Serbia.
Kosovo has been guarded by NATO troops since 1999, when NATO resorted to bombing to halt the killing of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces in a 1998-99 counter-insurgency war.
The country of 1.8 million now wants to join the alliance but its bid to do so may be complicated. Four NATO members – Romania, Spain, Greece and Slovakia – still have not recognized Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. [Reuters]