(CNN)Lawmakers in Kosovo have voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the country's armed security force and create an army, an act set to inflame tensions with Serbia.
Kosovo lawmakers approve army, as tensions with Serbia rise
In a statement, Kosovo's government said on Friday that it had drafted three laws -- to transform its small Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a "multiethnic, professional, armed and authorized force to serve in the country and abroad," on its new army's recruitment and to change the Ministry of KSF into the Ministry of Defense.
"The Government of the Republic of Kosovo considers that Kosovo's right for an army ... stems from sacrifice and freedom, from the rule of law, the sovereign, the will of the citizens to protect and promote pro-Western values in Kosovo and beyond," the statement said.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Kosovo's decision to upgrade the KSF into an army would not contribute to "cooperation, stability in the region."
"It is better to sit down and talk about how we can build a different future, rather than look at how we can raise barriers," she said.
The vote has prompted sharp criticism from NATO -- which has guarded Kosovo with peacekeeping troops since it attempted to break away from Serbia 20 years ago. The war led to thousands of deaths and the displacement of nearly 90% of Kosovo's population. Despite eventually declaring independence in 2008, Serbia still does not recognize Kosovo.
In a statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he regretted Kosovo's parliament vote to create an army, calling it "ill-timed" and asked for all sides to "remain calm."