Ending The Armed Conflict In Kosovo

Ending The Armed Conflict In Kosovo

Year(s): 1999.

Location: Kosovo.

UN Regional Group: Eastern Europe.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement.

Type of Initiative: Military intervention.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: A direct military intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ended the armed conflict in Kosovo during the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Description of Case 

As Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1990s, a Kosovar Albanian armed group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) launched an insurgency against federal security forces in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. After the KLA acquired significant quantities of weapons during the armed conflict in neighbouring Albania in 1997, the fighting in Kosovo escalated in 1998.[1] Amidst reports of atrocities against civilians in March 1998, the Contact Group (composed of the EU, US, and Russia) imposed sanctions on Yugoslavia and the administration of Slobodan Milošević and the UN approved an arms embargo. Talks hosted by the Government of Russia resulted in the deployment of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission in July, and another agreement in October allowed the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) to deploy 2,000 unarmed international observers of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) to monitor implementation.[2] These efforts, however, had little impact on the conflict. By the end of 1998, the KLA had spread their insurgency across Kosovo, forcing Milošević to order large military operations across the province which consistently resulted in atrocities against Kosovar Albanian civilians.  This resulted in increasingly harsh international condemnation, along with threats of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military intervention.

In February 1999, the representatives of the KLA and the Government of Yugoslavia met for peace talks mediated by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana in Rambouillet, France. The terms offered to the Yugoslav party were that Kosovo would remain an Autonomous Province of Yugoslavia and 5,000 Yugoslav personnel could remain in the area, but that overall responsibility for security in the area would be taken up by 30,000 NATO troops for a period of three years until the final status of Kosovo could be determined.[3] These terms proved unacceptable to Milošević, and his counter-offer of allowing an unarmed UN mission to deploy to Kosovo was rejected by the KLA and NATO. The failure of these talks led to the withdrawal of the KVM on 22 March 1999, a day prior to the announcement that NATO would commence a military campaign against Yugoslavia. On 24 March, NATO launched an extensive bombing campaign across Yugoslavia.[4] This culminated at the beginning of June, when Milošević finally acquiesced to a joint Finnish-Russian overture on 9 June 1999 and signed a technical military agreement which provided for the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces and the deployment of an international presence under UN auspices.[5] The following day, NATO suspended its air operations and on 12 June, Norwegian special forces led the NATO troops of the Kosovo Force into the area. These developments, spurred by the NATO military intervention, ended the war.[6] Over 90 percent of the Kosovar Albanian population was forced from their homes during the conflict, which cost the lives of 13,500 people. Although decisive, the NATO bombing campaign cost the lives of approximately 500 civilians in Yugoslavia.[7]


[1] UCDP. Serbia (Yugoslavia): Kosovo. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/412 (Accessed 23/11/2020)

[2] Staff and Agencies. “Yugoslavia: OSCE Signs Kosovo Verification Accord.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (16 October 1998) Available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/serbia/yugoslavia-osce-signs-kosovo-verification-accord (Accessed 25/01/2022)

[3] Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo (Rambouillet Accords), 1999. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/kosovo-rambouilletagreement99 (Accessed 25/01/2022)

[4] James Gow. The Serbian Project and its Adversaries. (London: Hurst, 2003) p.286

[5] Military Technical Agreement between the International Security Force (KFOR) and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, 1999. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/kosovoserbia-militarytechnicalagreement99 (Accessed 25/01/2022)

[6] Patrick Wintour, Ian Traynor, & Ed Vulliamy. “Why Milosevic blinked first.” The Guardian. (1999) Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/jun/06/balkans (Accessed 23/11/2020)

[7] Human Rights Watch. The Crisis in Kosovo. (HRW, 2001) Available at: https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2000/nato/Natbm200-01.htm (Accessed 25/01/2022)