The Estonian flag was lowered at a ceremonial lineup held at the headquarters of the NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Pristina this week, marking the end of Estonia's 19-year participation in the alliance-led peacekeeping mission.
"I thank Estonia for being a part of our long-term commitment to building a better future for Kosovo," KFOR Commander Maj. Gen. Salvatore Cuoci of the Italian Armed Forces was quoted by Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) as saying.
At Tuesday's event, Cuoci handed over the Estonian flag to Master Sgt. Andres Boklan, the last servicemember of the EDF to participate in the mission. He also thanked the approximately 780 Estonians who had likewise contributed to it over nearly two decades, commending them for their skills and professionalism.
Boklan in turn presented to Cuoci a plaque listing all the units in which Estonian servicemembers had served.
"The Kosovo Force was the first NATO mission in which the EDF participated, which supported our efforts to join the alliance," Commander of the EDF Gen. Riho Terras said. "It demonstrated our credibility and preparedness to contribute to joint missions." He noted that he was glad he could say that the mission was completed successfully, and added that Estonia would keep contributing to other NATO and UN missions.
Estonia had participated in the NATO-led KFOR mission since November 1999, when ESTPATROL-1, which consisted of ten soldiers, became the first unit to serve on the mission. Estonian units from ESTPATROL-1 through ESTPATROL-14 served in the mission's Italian contingent through December 2006. The Baltic reconnaissance units BALTSQN-7, BALTSQN-10 and BALTSQN-13 served as part of the Danish contingent from March 2003 through August 2006, and EDF reconnaissance platoons ESTRIF-1 through ESTRIF-6 participated in the mission from February 2007 through February 2010.
In recent years, Estonia had deployed to KFOR one staff officer and one staff non-commissioned officer (NCO).
Editor: Aili Vahtla