March 14, 2006

KIM Info Newsletter 14-04-06
our new address: www.kosovo.net

Demonstrations in Decani - Threats against UNMIK for protecting Visoki Decani Monastery continue

We have asked through international representatives that the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions and Decani municipality clearly and unambiguously condemn and stop the campaign against the monastery being waged through demonstrations and through certain media by the groups that signed the ultimatum letter. We expect them to clearly state whether they support the work of the UN Mission and the international community in efforts to ensure adequate protection for the minority population and Orthodox Christian religious sites and what kind of contribution they can make to this effort, said Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, the abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery, commenting on Thursday's demonstrations. This is a test of sincerity and accountability for Kosovo officials who need to demonstrate not just with words but with concrete activities whether they see the future of Kosovo and Metohija in anarchy or whether they are truly prepared to strive for the vision of a democratic and European society, said Bishop Teodosije in a statement for the KIM Info Service


Albin Kurti (center) addresses demonstrators against UNMIK and Visoki Decani Monastery

KIM Info Service
April 14, 2006

Head of the KLA Veterans' Association Avdyl Mushkolaj
(shown by arrow) could not resist showing up at the protest

The leader of the ultraradical and nationalistic organization VETEVENDOSJE (Self-determination) Albin Kurti has begun to carry out in practice the threats he recently published in a ultimatum addressed to UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen. Six days ago Albin Kurti, together with several extremist organizations from the Decani area (Balli Kombetar, Kosovo Liberation Army veterans, etc.) threatened that if Petersen extended his executive order on the protection of the safety area around Visoki Decani Monastery, he would block the work of UNMIK and the protection of the monastery.
 
On Thursday, April 13, at 12:00 noon Kurti organized demonstrations in the center of Decani in front of the building housing UNMIK's offices. According to assessments by international observers, some one hundred demonstrators took part, shouting slogans against UNMIK and the protection of the monastery. During the demonstrations, which took place without incident, Kurti repeated his groundless and malicious accusations against Visoki Decani Monastery with "testimony" provided by a few local Albanians who allegedly cannot freely work their land within the safety area.
 
According to well-informed circles in Pristina, senior diplomatic representatives and the UN Mission  have asked local party leaders of [Ramush Haradinaj's] Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) to refrain from lending public support to Kurti's demands. They have clearly pointed out that what AAK leaders are saying and what is happening in one of the municipalities governed by this party is hardly in synch. According to unofficial information Ramush Haradinaj himself also urged the members of the organizations that signed the ultimatum to Mr. Petersen not to join in the protest announced in it. As a result of this number of demonstrators was far smaller than expected even though Self-determination activists spent all morning passing out flyers calling on youth and citizens to join in the protest. Of the people who signed the ultimatum, the only one seen at Thursday's demonstrations was the head of the KLA Veterans' Association Avdyl Mushkolaj, who did not make any speeches. Avdyl Mushkolaj headed the demonstrations in Decani in March 2004 when all UN vehicles were torched. Kosovo police kept order and the main road was not blocked during the protest meeting.
 

From Thursday's demonstrations in Decani - Expel UNMIK first and then the Serbs
 
Apparently the intent of Kurti's activists is to physically prevent UNMIK staff from carrying out their regular duties and to thus interrupt the implementation of the UNMIK chief's executive order, expected to be signed today, according to which the validity of the safety area around the monastery will be extended for the next six months. The activists claim that they will protest until they achieve their goal and they have already placed on public display a list of five internationals whom they wish to expel from the town of Decani. However, it is the opinion of informed circles in Pristina that this superficially unserious campaign hides the intent of certain political and extremist structures to use Kurti as their puppet in order to practically expel the last representatives of the international community from town and prevent the administration of the Special Zoning Area entrusted to UNMIK staff and KFOR troops. In order to do this a tent has been pitched in front of the building housing UNMIK's offices where Kurti's activists keep watch in order to physically prevent UNMIK staff from coming to work and the UN offices from conducting their regular tasks. Some in UN fear that these hooligans might even reach for a weapon since armed persons (KIA) have threatened UN staff with execution and kidnapping last autumn in the Decani area.
 
This open threat to the UN Mission and active incitation of hatred toward the Serbian Orthodox Church, in the opinion of international representatives, is a serious challenge to the UN Mission but also a rather good indicator of the intentions of extremist circles in Kosovo. "Self-determination has very little support in Decani and without at least the passive acquiescence of the authorities Kurti would be hard pressed to bring together ten people," a representative of UN international police told KIM Info Service. He added that the relatively poor showing at Kurti's demonstrations after the flamboyant ultimatum supported by several organizations that could bring together thousands of people shows that the problem is not arising spontaneously from the people but is instead dictated by specific political and paramilitary circles with their own interests, especially drug and weapons smuggling across the border with nearby Montenegro and Albania.
 

Bishop Teodosije - Words and promises need to
be turned into deeds with clear condemnation
of threats and support for the UN

We have asked through international representatives that the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions and Decani municipality clearly and unambiguously condemn and stop the campaign against the monastery being waged through demonstrations and through certain media by the groups that signed the ultimatum letter. We expect them to clearly state whether they support the work of the UN Mission and the international community in efforts to ensure adequate protection for the miniorities and Orthodox Christian religious sites and what kind of contribution they can make to this effort, said Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, the abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery, commenting on Thursday's demonstrations. This is a test of sincerity and accountability for Kosovo officials who need to demonstrate not just with words but with concrete activities whether they see the future of Kosovo and Metohija in anarchy or whether they are truly prepared to strive for the vision of a democratic and European society, said Bishop Teodosije in a statement for the KIM Info Service.
 
Excuses that we are dealing with a small group of irresponsible individuals who do not know what they are doing simply don't hold because what we have is a pre-planned and well-organized campaign that undermines the authority of the international community and further discourages the process of returns and inclusion of Serbs in Kosovo institutions, said Bishop Teodosije, who will be informing the highest representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding these latest developments. The extremists are also damaging the interests of their own people with these shameful disturbances, concluded the Bishop.
 
The lack of a public, responsible and timely reaction by the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions will be a very negative signal to all Kosovo Serbs, according to circles in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
 
PETERSEN DETERMINED TO EXTEND ORDER ON SAFETY ZONE
 
Soren Jessen Petersen

Soren Jessen-Petersen - We will
not pay attention to threats

During a meeting with Bishop Teodosije and Father Sava Janjic in Pristina on Monday UNMIK Chief Soren Jessen-Petersen clearly stated that the executive order regarding the safety zone will be extended despite the threats. The UNMIK chief emphasized that the protection of Visoki Decani Monastery may serve as a model to be implemented in the protection of other endangered Orthodox holy shrines.
 
Bishop Teodosije and Father Sava repeated for journalists after the meeting that the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops and the Ten Basic Principles of the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding the protection of Orthodox monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija do not mention any sort of extraterritoriality. Instead, the SOC is insisting on effective institutional protection with written international guarantees, as well as that the passage of travelers through the safety zone and the cultivation of private land parcels take place completely normally. In contacts with several international officials, especially after the recent visit of the SOC delegation to the U.S.A. it has been said that monasteries as living communities must be protected in a very specific fashion with the forming of safety zones that will exclude industrial development, construction, exploitation of natural resources and other activities that are a threat to the environment. Such standards exist throughout the civilized world, the SOC delegation emphasized.
 
The direct cause for last year's proclamation of a safety zone around Visoki Decani Monastery was the intent of a U.S. businessman who emigrated from Kosovo some ten years ago, Florin Krasniqi(well known from the documentary film "The Brooklyn connection") to build two factories and open a marble quarry in the immediate vicinity of the monastery. This year Krasniqi added the building of a dam with an artificial accumulated lake to his list of projects, which the UNMIK administration rejected because it is contrary to the provisions of the safety zone and on land that once belonged to the monastery. Nevertheless, an illegal restaurant has been built in the safety zone with the silent acquiescence of the municipality and it is functioning normally despite the fact that it was built without a construction permit or UNMIK permission.
 
SUPPORT FROM INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATIVES
 

Head of the U.S. Office in Pristina
Philip Goldberg - We did not come
to create an ethnic Albanian state

Soren Jessen-Petersen's decision to extend the validity of the safety area around Visoki Decani Monastery has received open support from representatives of the major diplomatic offices in Pristina and KFOR command. Bishop Teodosije and Father Sava discussed the issue recently with the head of the U.S. Office in Pristina, Philip Goldberg, and the head of the Russian Office, Sergei Bazdnikin, and today the new head of the British Office David Blant visited the monastery, afterwards meeting in Decani with mayor Nazmi Selmanaj (AAK). The head of the U.S. Office Philip Goldberg told Bishop Teodosije that he had personally told local Kosovo media on several occasions that that U.S.A. did not come to Kosovo to build an ethnic Albanian state and that the U.S. Administration will strongly insist on protection of minorities and Orthodox Christian religious sites. KFOR commander Italian general Giuseppe Valotto said during a meeting with the Bishop that KFOR does not intend to leave the area around Visoki Decani Monastery and that it is ready to confront all security challenges.
 
On Saturday, April 15, the U.S. envoy for negotiations on Kosovo and Martti Ahtisaari's deputy Frank Wisner will be visiting Visoki Decani Monastery together with the head of the U.S. Office, Philip Goldberg. In addition to these contacts, Bishop Teodosije has also informed representatives of the office of Mr. Ahtisaari in Vienna regarding these events, citing the threats and pressure from extremist organizations as the best indicator that protection of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines must be taken very seriously and that monasteries must get as special form of internationally guaranteed protection with a mandatory military presence, especially in the most endangered parts of Kosovo.
 

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