In a swift response to heightened tensions in the region and a recent violent attack on Kosovo Police, the United Kingdom has deployed the first contingent of British soldiers to reinforce NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping mission.
Today, the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment arrived in Pristina, marking the initial phase of a two-hundred-strong British deployment.
NATO Responds to Escalating Situation with KFOR Deployment
The deployment follows a request by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and comes in the wake of a violent attack on Kosovo Police that occurred on September 24th. The situation in the region has grown increasingly tense, necessitating the bolstering of the KFOR mission.
British Contingent Expands
This deployment complements an existing British presence in Kosovo, with over 400 British troops already stationed in the region as part of an annual exercise. The additional soldiers from the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will join this contingent, which has remained in Kosovo to support stability. Notably, the peacekeeping force will not only include troops but also hundreds of vehicles arriving by sea freight.
A Commitment to Peacekeeping
Under NATO’s command, these British forces will be readily available to conduct operations in strict accordance with KFOR’s mandate. The primary objectives, meanwhile, revolve around maintaining a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and ensuring uninterrupted freedom of movement for all residents.
UK Defence Secretary’s Statement
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps expressed the UK’s commitment to NATO and praised the rapid response, stating,
“The UK is a leading NATO Ally. Within a few days, the UK responded to NATO’s call for reinforcements and deployed 200 additional soldiers from the First Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment for the Kosovo Force (KFOR). This shows the agility of the UK’s Armed Forces.”
He expressed confidence that the soldiers would make the UK proud.
NATO’s Ongoing Peacekeeping Efforts
NATO has maintained a peacekeeping operation in Kosovo since 1999, in line with its mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. KFOR currently comprises more than 4,500 troops contributed by 27 NATO Allies and partners.
UK’s Broad Contribution
The United Kingdom has been an active participant in KFOR’s operations, contributing significantly to various aspects of the mission. This includes deploying two intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) units and assigning UK staff officers to the mission headquarters.
The Strategic Reserve Force commitment currently rests with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. This commitment was recently extended until at least 2026, as announced by the Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey in May 2023.
The UK is also working closely with international partners to urge Kosovo and Serbia to de-escalate tensions and return to dialogue. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently held discussions with both President Vucic of Serbia and President Osmani of Kosovo during the European Political Community meeting in Granada, where he encouraged de-escalation.
Furthermore, Minister for Europe, Leo Docherty, is scheduled to meet with Serbian and Kosovan Foreign Ministers in the Albanian capital during a meeting of the Berlin Process, a forum aimed at fostering increased regional cooperation in the Western Balkans.
These diplomatic efforts build upon the work of Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the Western Balkans, Lord Peach, who regularly engages with both Serbian and Kosovan stakeholders to promote regional stability.