A Kosovan show of gratitude for UK military protection during the Balkans war was a “wonderful” gesture, Doug Beattie has said.
The Ulster Unionist MLA who served in the region with the Royal Irish Regiment said the outpouring of goodwill – ahead of and during Kosovo’s Euro 2020 qualifier against England on Sunday – was a timely reminder of a job well done.
During the playing of God Save The Queen, Kosovan fans held aloft England flags, while outside the packed Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina poppy-adorned banners displayed the words ‘Welcome & Respect’.
Mr Beattie said the UK’s intervention as part of a multinational peace-keeping force is one of many examples of the UK military as a “force for good”.
He said: “The Kosovo people of all sides, of all communities, are rightly appreciative of what the UK did, along with other nations as well including Ireland, to create peace in their country.
“I think it’s wonderful that a small country such as Kosovo doesn’t forget the sacrifice of others in securing their peace and I applaud them for that very visual show of appreciation.”
For people to show appreciation for what we did on their behalf I think is wonderfulDoug Beattie
More than 100,000 people were killed by the various conflicts that flared as the former Yugoslav regions declared independence between 1991 and 1999.
“I went into Kosovo in 1999 as part of the UK forces – a peace-keeping force that stopped a civil war and created peace,” Mr Beattie said.
“It has given them some form of stability. It’s not perfect but they have stability.
“People forget the British military’s involvement after the ebola outbreak [in Sierra Leone], and the British military’s positive peace-keeping engagement in Bosnia and what we did in Macedonia.
“These are all brushed under the carpet because it doesn’t fit some people’s narratives.
“The reality is that the UK forces, like others in the world, on many occasions are a force for good and they continue to be as we speak.
“I remember being in Kosovo and I remember seeing the carnage. There are many images that are indelibly imprinted on my mind and for people to show appreciation for what we did on their behalf I think is wonderful.”