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Tensions remain in Kosovo despite KFOR presence

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Tensions remain in Kosovo despite KFOR presence


Serb forces pulled out of Kosovo in June 1999 after several weeks of NATO bombardments. American and European leaders decided to use force after Belgrade rejected an ultimatum to halt violence against Albanians, and after Serbia rejected a peace plan signed by Kosovo Albanians in France.

Despite the arrival of KFOR, a stabilisation force set up by the UN, Serbs continued to flee the province. Six years later and many refugees still have not returned home. The status of the territory also remains uncertain – the province of 1.8 million is officially known as an international protectorate. In March 2004, violent clashes broke out in the town of Mitrovica. There had been ongoing tension in this divided town ever since the arrival of KFOR, but this time the violence was unprecedented, with 19 people killed. For years the province has had autonomy from Belgrade: it has its own parliament, government and president. Legally, however, it remains a province of Serbia, with the UN the administrator. In November 2005, UN-led talks on the future of Kosovo began, chaired by the former Finnish president Marti Ahtisaari. The countries involved set out clear principles: no partition of the province, no union with a neighbouring state and no return to what existed before 1999. The so-called Contact Group on Kosovo – made up of the US, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and Italy – also agrees that the rights of minority groups must be guaranteed and peace-keeping troops must remain.
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