My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The House will recall the successful deployment of the 2nd Battalion, the Rifles (2 Rifles) to Kosovo during June as part of our existing commitment to the NATO/EU shared pan-Balkans Operational Reserve Force (ORF). This commitment will last until the end of 2008.
Following a review of the security situation in Kosovo and our wider military commitments, the Foreign Secretary and I have agreed that the UK contribution to the ORF will cease on 31 December 2008. The major milestones in Kosovo’s independence have passed without incident and the security situation in Kosovo is stable, if fragile. Against this backdrop, and with over 15,000 personnel currently in theatre, NATO remains well placed to deal with any potential security incidents.
The deployment of the UK ORF battalion demonstrated again the professionalism of our Armed Forces. It also confirmed our commitment to the security of Kosovo during a politically sensitive period. The UK will continue to make a significant contribution to Kosovo’s security through the provision of key intelligence capabilities, support to the stand-down of the Kosovo Protection Corps and wider security sector reform and capacity building. Moreover, the UK will continue to assist with mobilising international support for Kosovo on key political, governance and economic issues.