By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
The Armenian army platoon that left for Kosovo last week has been inspected and made welcome by a U.S. general who commands a multinational peace-keeping contingent in the east of the former Yugoslav province, a U.S. military spokesman there said on Tuesday.
The 34 Armenian servicemen have been incorporated into a Greek peace-keeping battalion which in turn is part of the Multinational Brigade East (MNB East) of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR). The U.S.-dominated brigade is led by Brigadier General Jerry Beck and also comprises troops from Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania.
According to Beck’s spokesman, Major Chris Cole, the Armenians, who are on their country’s first-ever military mission abroad, left a good impression on the U.S. commander. “On Saturday night we had a social event that the Greeks hold every two months and had an opportunity to meet the Armenian platoon,” Cole told RFE/RL from the MNB East headquarters in Urosevac, eastern Kosovo.
“They seemed a very professional, very disciplined unit,” he said. “They were very happy to be here, and on behalf of General Beck we certainly welcomed them into our task force. We really look forward to working with them.”
Kosovo has been run by a United Nations administration ever since the 1999 campaign of NATO air strikes ended Serbian rule in the region mainly populated by independence-minded ethnic Albanians. KFOR has a U.N. mandate to maintain and enforce peace in Kosovo until a political agreement is reached on its future status — something which does not yet seem to be on the cards.
KFOR has divided the restive area into four security zones controlled by British, French, German and U.S. forces acting under a single chain of command. The area where the Armenian peace-keepers have been deployed borders on Serbia proper and another ex-Yugoslav republic, Macedonia.
The Armenian troops have been trained and equipped by the Greek military and will also receive a daily allowance from the latter during their Kosovo duty. They are due to be rotated every six months.