NATO attempts to appease Serbian concerns over Croatian troops in Kosovo

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic attend a news conference in Brussels
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(Reuters) -NATO sought on Monday to assuage Serbian concerns over the deployment of Croatian troops to Kosovo, stressing they were bound by exactly the same rules as all other troops of the alliance's KFOR peacekeeping force in the Balkan country.

"All troops provided by NATO allies and partner countries to our operation in Kosovo operate under ... a well established framework, which is set out by the UN resolution 1244," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels.

Vucic has been dismayed over an announcement by Croatia to deploy more troops to Kosovo as part of KFOR, according to media reports. Serbia and Croatia were wartime foes during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Albanian dominated Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes wrestled control of the territory away from Belgrade to end a counter-insurgency campaign by Serbian security forces.

Vucic called the meeting with Stoltenberg at NATO's Brussels headquarters reassuring.

"Everything that has been done so far under the mandate of the United Nations and done by NATO forces was pretty much supported by all sides, and hopefully that will remain so," he said.

Stoltenberg stressed that there were no changes planned to the KFOR mission, which numbers some 3,500 troops and was established in 1999.

"NATO allies are firmly committed to KFOR and to its important mission," Stoltenberg said, adding NATO troops were in Kosovo to protect all communities and ensure the freedom of movement.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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