US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is welcomed by his German host at this year’s Munich Security Conference.
The three-day get-together of diplomats, heads of state and foreign and defence ministers has a long list of topics to discuss including divisions within NATO over the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan.
But it was the issue of Kosovo and its bid for independence which began proceedings.
At the opening dinner the newly re-elected Serbian President, Boris Tadic warned guests that accepting a declaration of independence from the breakaway province could have serious ramifications.
“The precedent that would be established should Serbia be partitioned against its will, which is what the imposed independence of Kosovo is in truth, could in turn result in the escalation of many existing conflicts, the re-activation of a number of frozen conflicts and the instigation of who knows how many new conflicts,” said President Boris Tadic.
But it is Afghanistan which is set to dominate discussions . The US has expressed concern that NATO is splitting into a two-tiered alliance in which some countries are willing to send soldiers to fight and others aren’t.
Washington is urging Europe not to let opposition to the Iraq war affect a willingness to provide support in what the US sees as its “Fight against Terror” but Europe prefers to see as a reconstruction or peacekeeping mission.