November 20 , 2002
Bishop Artemije: This unscrupulous statement is tantamount to a crime because it encourages criminals to destroy all remaining unprotected Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija
November 19, 2002
The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija most strongly protests the most recent statement of KFOR that it will provide protection by a permanent presence only for those Serb religious monuments of historical or artistic value and those which are in active church use. The KFOR statement quotes liberally from a report from Kosovo and Metohija on November 18 by the Italian news agency ANSA (see original text in Italian and link below). The statement says that KFOR did not have a permanent checkpoint at the churches attacked two days ago because _they had been abandoned for a long time and had no historical or artistic value_. Another reason why these churches were unprotected was because it appeared that Istok municipality had achieved a satisfactory level of security and peace and consequently a permanent security presence was considered unnecessary; instead, an occasional security patrol checked near these locations.
This is an unscrupulous statement without precedent which openly encourages the criminals who are destroying our holy churches to continue with their barbaric revelry, Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren said today in a statement for the ERP KIM Info Service. It is tantamount to being an accessory to crime because leaving numerous churches built laboriously by the Serb people without any protection and security means allowing extremists to destroy them and erase forever the vestiges of our existence.
It is absolutely unacceptable for God's churches to be separated into the valuable and the not valuable, and for all those who for some are not of especial historical significance to be set apart for destruction. It is well-known to everyone that these churches in Ljubovo and Djurakovac were not abandoned because the Serbs willingly left their homes but because they were expelled by extremists permitted by KFOR and UNMIK to ethnically cleanse Kosovo and Metohija of its Serb population and to destroy numerous churches after the war. Thus, statements such as this represent the greatest possible insult to the Serb people and a slap in the face to the civilized and cultured world. Over 110 churches have been destroyed and heavily damaged after the war, in the presence of KFOR and UNMIK, for the sole reason that they were not to the liking of the architects of an ethnically pure Albanian society in Kosovo and Metohija, who would like to erase centuries of Christian culture and building overnight using the international presence. Will the world continue to placidly observe the destruction of our remaining churches and monasteries or will it finally take action to put an end to this campaign of violence, declared Bishop Artemije.
We claim with authority that for every further damaged or destroyed church direct responsibility before God and history will be borne not only by those who commit the actual crimes but also those who permit them to do so by issuing statements such as this, concluded Bishop Artemije in his statement for the ERP KIM Info Service. We expect the KFOR commander and other officials to withdraw or refute this immoral statement immediately and post guards in front of our endangered churches before these, too, are destroyed by Albanian extremists.
ANSA REPORT IN ITALIAN
KFOR: We will protect only historical churches
ANSA - PRISTINA, 18 November - KFOR will continue to maintain in Kosovo permanent protection only near those Serbian religious monuments of historical or artistic value which in active church use. This was confirmed today by a communique from the commander of peacekeeping forces under NATO deployed in Pristina. In the same statement KFOR condemns the two attacks carried out yesterday against two more Orthodox in the western part of Istok (municipality). These churches were no longer under the protection of soldiers. "These two churches, like many others," KFOR exlains, "have passed from the level of direct physical protection by KFOR forces to the level of indirect production of KFOR and the civilian police for two reasons. They were abandoned a long time ago and they had no historical or artistic value. One was built in 1940 and the other in 1997; neither was of special cultural significance. The second reason according to KFOR is that Istok municipality, which is controlled by Spanish forces which until a few days ago comprised a part of an Italian brigade, appeared to have achieved a satisfactory level of security and peace. "Since local authorities have openly condemned these acts as acts of crimes regardless of ethnicity, the commander's report concludes, KFOR will continue to promote transfer of responsibility to civil authorities and maintain permanent protectino only for those religious buildings of historical or artistic value which are used for religious purposes. Last night Bishop Artemije, a key figure in the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, accused KFOR and the UN police of discontinuing the protection of the two churches which were attacked, saying that since the beginning of the NATO presence in JUne 1999, 110 Serbian churches have been destroyed and damaged.
OPEN LETTER OF DR. NEBOJSA COVIC TO MICHAEL STEINER AND GENERAL MINI REGARDING THE DESTRUCTION OF TWO ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
Belgrade, November 18, 2002
To Mr. Michael Steiner, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, and General Lieutenant-Colonel Fabio Mini, KFOR Commander
The Presidency of the Coordinating Center of the Yugoslav Government and the Government of the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija held an extraordinary meeting on November 18, 2002 regarding the terrorist act of Albanian extremists who used explosives to completely destroy the Church of St. Basil of Ostrog (Sv. Vasilije Ostroski) in Ljubovo (November 16) and [detonated] three explosions demolishing the interior of the Church of All Serbian Saints in Djurakovac (November 17).
We are defeated by the fact that the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches is continuing with determination. You are aware that not long ago the beginning of the restoration of the monastery in Zociste dating back to the 14th century was demonstratively prevented by an aggressive attack on gathered participants and destruction of the remnants of the monastery. Immediately after this, the terrorists planned to prevent the celebration of the 650 year anniversary of the founding of the Holy Archangels Monastery (Sv. Arhandjela) near Prizren, the pious endowment of the Serb Emperor Dusan, also from the 14th century, by planting explosives in the monastery fortification, which was discovered by chance.
In addition to the killing of innocent people in Kosovo and Metohija the killing of churches is also continuing. According to information from the Diocese of Raska and Prizren so far 112 holy sites have been destroyed and damaged. The number speaks for itself of the extent of vandalism in the intentions of the perpetrators. Cynics may say that the two churches most recently destroyed were not legally registered cultural monuments but the two aforementioned monasteries belong among cultural monuments of the highest importance. The line between registered and unregistered monuments is a fine one, especially since the UNMIK Review of Activities (ref. 251/01) for 2002 lists _creation of a new list of registered monuments_ although the registration that you found upon arrival was created according to European standards. The Coordinating Center believed that ethnic and religious vandalism would stop. Our hopes have been dashed. The continuation of destruction demands that both you and we take action.
The international community, the Security Council, the United Nations, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Serbia and UNMIK all seek the return of the Serbs. You want the Serbs to return to their homes. The church is the spiritual home of hundreds of citizens. The continuation of the killing of monasteries and churches is a clear message to Serbs not to return. The contradictory messages need to stop. Terrorist messages must be brought to an end. Punishment remains without effect. We must act preventatively.
In a situation such as this it is our opinion that the fight against terrorism must be our common activity. By it we are not only preventing terrorism against holy sites. We are convinced that it represents a battle for the values of the civilization to which we all belong. Toward this goal we have two recommendations:
I. That we adopt the preventative sense of the Hague Convention and that we jointly initiate the implementation of its relevant provisions, as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and the Special Envoy of the Yugoslav Government and the Government of the Republic of Serbia pledged by affixing their signatures to the Joint Agreement dated November 5, 2001.
II. We propose that during the course of the following week in the Coordinating Center a meeting be held to include the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and, since this is a security issue, an official representative of the KFOR Commander; and on our side, the Vice-President of the Coordinating Center charged in the area of cultural heritage and the Director of the Department for Cultural Heritage. Our side would also accept the holding of the meeting at UNMIK Headquarters in Pristina.
Confident that we are acting on our common task, we send our sincere greetings.
For the Presidency of the Coordinating Center
Dr. Nebojsa Covic
Copies: Mr. Kofi
Annan, UN Secretary-General
(VIP, Belgrade; 19 November)
SERB REPRESENTATIVES UNDERLINE IMPORTANCE OF ANNAN'S VISIT
AFP Serbian PM calls for direct talks with Kosovo leadership
BELGRADE, Nov 19 (AFP) - Serbia and Kosovo should begin direct political contacts to pave the way for dialogue on the final status of the UN-administered province, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said Tuesday.
Djindjic said this was agreed during his talks here Tuesday with United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who earlier visited Kosovo and met leaders of the ethnic-Albanian government there.
"We have concluded that direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina should start, firstly in resolving concrete problems for the citizens, namely about property, the return of refugees and security," Djindjic told reporters.
He said the initial contacts should deal with "all those issues which are not big political or constitutional questions but are preconditions to get to talks on major questions".
Kosovo is legally a province of Serbia, the largest republic in the Yugoslav federation.
But it has been under UN and NATO control since the end of NATO's air war in 1999 which ended a Yugoslav army crackdown on the ethnic Albanian majority.
Ethnic Albanians want complete
independence for the province, but the small ethnic Serb minority hopes
to remain part of the Serbian republic.
Annan made no mention of such a proposal when he spoke to reporters after an earlier meeting with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.
Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren