Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

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Former US President Bill Clinton applauds during the inauguration of the monument of Madeleine Albright at the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2019
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Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

  • Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion
  • Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory

PRISTINA: Thousands of Kosovo Albanians turned out on Wednesday to welcome back former US president Bill Clinton and his ex-top diplomat Madeleine Albright 20 years after they helped engineer the NATO air war that ousted Serbian forces.
Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion, joining one of Clinton erected earlier on a boulevard named after him.
Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory following a brutal counter-insurgency campaign by Serbian security forces.
“I love this country and it will always be one of the greatest honors of my life to have stood with you against ethnic cleansing (by Serbian forces) and for freedom,” Clinton told thousands gathered in sweltering heat in downtown Pristina.
Marking the 20th anniversary of NATO peacekeeping troops entering Kosovo after Serbian forces left, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci awarded Clinton and Albright medals of freedom “for the liberty he brought to us and the peace to entire region.”
Clinton and Albright were the most outspoken proponents of NATO intervention to halt killings of Kosovar civilians by Serbian forces as part of Belgrade’s 1998-99 crackdown on a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising.
“I was watching the NATO planes from the window of my apartment in Pristina during the war and I was praying to God and the USA; I had no other hope,” said Gani Kelmendi, 78, as he waited in the crowd for Clinton to appear.
“I remember the moment when in my village the Serb army was getting out and French soldiers were coming in. I could not believe my eyes,” said Fetah Berisha, 67, who considers Clinton Kosovo’s “savior.”
But the end of fighting brought about by NATO’s intervention has not brought true peace to the southern Balkan region.
Belgrade has still not recognized independent Kosovo more than a decade after more than 110 other countries did and, backed by its main ally Russia, is blocking Pristina’s bid for membership of the United Nations.
Tensions rose anew six months ago when Kosovo introduced a 100 percent tax on goods imported from Serbia and warned it would keep them until Belgrade recognized its independence.
The European Union has warned Kosovo and Serbia that they will not advance toward wished-for membership unless they reach an agreement to normalize relations.


France, Germany sign European jet fighter deal

Updated 15 min 53 sec ago
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France, Germany sign European jet fighter deal

  • The new agreement will include a new generation combat aircraft
  • The development phase is expected to start by 2030

LE BOURGET, France: France, Germany and Spain agreed Monday to develop a European fighter jet and air combat system, as they bolster efforts to reduce their dependency on the United States.
Defense ministers from the three countries signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show that lays out how the countries will cooperate on the project, which would include a new-generation combat aircraft.
French President Emmanuel Macron presided over the signing. The project fits in with his ambition to increase European cooperation at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is showing an increasing reluctance to support the continent militarily.
It’s going to take time though. The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is not expected to be operational until 2040. Requirements for the air combat system that will also include drones will be decided by 2027 and the development phase should start by 2030.
French Defense minister Florence Parly said the deal is “concrete proof that Europe is capable of anticipating tomorrow’s great strategic challenges.”
“The FCAS is a major asset to tackle the power struggles of the second half of the 21st century. What is happening today is historic,” she said.
Dassault Aviation and Airbus are set to build the jets which will eventually replace Rafale and Eurofighters.
The program was launched by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2017. Airbus says it will be connected and operable with a wide variety of aircraft, satellites, NATO systems as well as land and naval combat systems.
Authorities have not said how much it would cost but the dpa news agency estimates it could be $112 billion.