Balkans: Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

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December24, 2006: The UN and EU (European Union) continue to say that any decisions on Kosovo's "final status" will be taken after Serbia's upcoming elections. Those elections are scheduled for January 21, 2007. That noted, a decision appears to be in the works. The UN issued a statement on December 14 that said "fringe groups" would exploit "frustration" with a stalled process. Many politicians in the region believe that the final status decision must include some form of "partial independence" (also called "conditional independence") for Kosovo.

December 21, 2006: Police in Kosovo reported seizing a "large quantity" of arms near the village of Glogovac (west of Pristina). The arms cache also included explosives. Three people were also arrested in the police operation. One of the men arrested works in Kosovo's Ministry of Labor. As the time to make the decision regarding Kosovo's future approaches, peacekeepers and police are trying to round up potential troublemakers.

December 20, 2006: Some 500 members of the Virginia National Guard's 29th Infantry Division reported for duty in Kosovo. The troops are part of a 1500 man US KFOR contingent headquartered at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. A detachment from the Texas National Guard's 36th Division returned from Kosovo earlier in December.

December 11, 2006: The European Union "partially froze" EU membership talks with Turkey. The ostensible issue was Cyprus. The freeze occurred despite Turkey's offer to open limited sea and air traffic from Greek-Cypriot seaports and airports. Turkey still has approximately 40,000 troops in northern Cyprus, protecting the Cypriote Turks from the Greek majority.

December 9, 2006: At the end of November NATO invited Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro to join the Partnership for Peace Program. This is regarded as a major political gesture by NATO toward Bosnia and Serbia. Several war criminals remain at large in both countries and NATO had been using membership in PFP as a "carrot" to nudge Bosnia and Serbia to cooperate in apprehending war crimes suspects. NATO also told Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia that these three nations could join the alliance as early as 2008. All three countries are trying to meet alliance membership criteria. Military force modernization is an issue for all three countries.

 

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