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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija
Gracanica, October 13, 2000
With regard to the upcoming local municipal elections, the president of the SNC said that the Serbs would not participate in local elections in Kosovo and Metohija because the necessary conditions for this have not been created; however, lists will be submitted to Mr. Bernard Kouchner of Serb political representatives to be appointed as representatives of the Serb community in local municipal structures of the Province.
Bishop Artemije also emphasized that in the newly created conditions harsh rhetorics should be avoided and that the interests of the Serb people should be fought for through wise and reasonable policies. Every unnecessary radicalization and confrontation would only destroy what the SNC has accomplished to date through its political work. Hence, the SNC will continue its activities with the full support of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the most respected and the oldest institution of the Serb people in this region.
The IAC underlines that many challenges remain ahead for the people of Kosovo and for the international community working here. The fate of the detained persons in Serbia and of the missing persons of all communities remains the most pressing problem. The IAC also calls for the handover of all indicted war criminals to the ICTY in the Hague.
The IAC welcomes the statement by the SRSG that Security Council Resolution 1244 will continue to be fully implemented. In this respect, the successful conduct of free and fair democratic municipal elections on 28 October mark the major step in building genuine Kosovo institutions. The IAC is dedicated to work on creating the necessary conditions to hold Kosovo-wide elections as soon as possible.
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During the course of the session, lively discussion took place regarding a series of issues mentioned in the statement. Protosyncellus Sava stated that although Resolution 1244 foresees the holding of local municipal and general elections in Kosovo as part of the concept of substantial self-government within the framework of FRY, the UN mission has the task of first providing basic security conditions and respect for basic human rights especially for those communities which are now endangered. Under conditions of extreme discrimination against everything not Albanian in Kosovo and Metohija, the Serb people will not be able to participate in any kind of elections. In order for the political will of the Serb community in the Province to be freely expressed, it is essential to create conditions for a free and dignified life. People cannot be taken to polling booths in armored transporters while they spend their lives in reservations. In addition, the return of the displaced Serbs, Roma and Bosniacs is of special importance for the creation of those conditions.
The SNC supports the Hague tribunal as an institution under the auspices of the United Nations and the entire international community but at all times emphasizes that in Kosovo and Metohija all crimes committed against innocent civilians by both sides during and after the war need to be equally and objectively investigated. Father Sava stated that the SNC is preparing material on the violation of human rights and crimes committed against Serbs especially during the post-war period.
The issue of imprisoned and missing persons is, in the opinion of the SNC, certainly the most painful issue which is seriously burdening relations between the two most numerous communities in Kosovo and Metohija. The SNC in the past has clearly and unequivocally supported the idea that imprisoned Albanians who are currently located in prisons in the territory of central Serbia be turned over to UNMIK. However, for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, it is of priority importance that the UN mission and KFOR more effectively conduct investigations of more than 1,000 kidnapped Serbs and other non-Albanians who disappeared after the end of the war. The ignoring of this problem and indifference to their fate, especially by Albanian political representatives and organizations represents a serious obstacle to further political dialog.
Of special importance for the SNC is the part of the statement which reaffirms Resolution 1244. To date many aspects of the Resolution were not implemented due to the impossibility of dialog between Milosevic and Albanian political leaders. With a democratic government in Belgrade, conditions are created for Resolution 1244 to be implemented in full.
The Information Service of the SNC
Cover of the "Kosovo and Metohija Herald" (Glasnik Kosova and Metohije),
the information bulletin of the SNC,
October 8-10, 2000
Danas, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
October 14-15, 2000
Episcope of Raska and Prizren Artemije (Radosavljevic) on the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the change of the federal government
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO AVOID BELGRADE
By Jelena Tasic
It turned out that the SNC was right: Bishop Artemije (PHOTO: DANAS)
After everything that has occurred in Kosovo and Metohija, the Episcope of Raska and Prizren, Artemije (Radosavljevic), the president of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, was, for the first time, received by a domestic man in power. Commenting on the meeting with Vojislav Kostunica, the new president of FRY, Bishop Artemije says that it is "satisfaction for all the times he was ignored in the past by the former regimes of Yugoslavia and Serbia, because the end is near for those at the republic level as well".
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: The main part of the discussion with Mr. Kostunica was in regard to the issue of Kosovo in light of these changes in Belgrade and Serbia. Our joint conclusion was that the issue of Kosovo will now be able to be resolved far more positively and that in this process the international community will no longer be able to avoid Belgrade, Serbia, the new democratic government, as it had reason to do while the former president, Mr. Milosevic, occupied the same position. After these changes in Belgrade and Serbia, I think, that the issue of Kosovo's independence has moved several light years away from its realization.
DANAS: You were very skeptical toward the participation of the opposition in the federal elections. You said that the elections were lost for the opposition from the start under the conditions established by the regime. How do you comment now?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: I certainly was skeptical after the bitter experience of the past ten years and of all earlier elections which Mr. Milosevic always won. We know how. Apparently during these ten years the opposition became better organized and found methods and ways for better control of the elections. I am overjoyed that my dark forebodings did not come true and that I turned out to be a man who could not foresee everything.
DANAS: Vojislav Kostunica announced that the three main principles of policy for Kosovo and Metohija will be compliance with Resolution 1244, the return of expelled Serbs, and the simultaneous solution of the status of Albanian prisoners in Serbia and the problem of kidnapped and missing Serbs in the Province.
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: This is what we have been emphasizing all along. First of all, the security situation in Kosovo for everyone, the remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians, must be resolved. Here we also have the return of all expelled persons, primarily Serbs, Roma and others, and then also the resolution of the issue of Albanian prisoners in prisons in Serbia, but also of missing and kidnapped Serbs, both during and after the war, during this year and a half of the presence of the international community. The issue of prisoners and kidnapped persons is a twofold problem. The problem of Albanian prisoners cannot be resolved out of context with the missing and kidnapped and Serbs. We emphasized this as early as last year in our first contacts with the international community and with the Albanians at conferences organized by the United States Institute for Peace. The Albanians have a tendency to unilaterally demand the release and liberation of all prisoners, never mentioning the fate of the kidnapped Serbs.
The prisoners and their files should be turned over to an unbiased international commission which will determine on the basis of facts who among the prisoners was detained although innocent. Among the prisoners there are certainly criminals as well, just as among the kidnapped Serbs there are some who deserve to be in prison somewhere. Both groups need to be turned over to an international commission. Those who are innocent should be released and the others should be brought before justice to face their responsibility in accordance with the sentence of an appropriate court.
DANAS: From the beginning of the Kosovo crisis, you and Momcilo Trajkovic have asked that representatives of the Kosovo Serbs participate in negotiations with the mother country on the fate of Kosovo. Will you remain with this principle?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: In conversation with President Kostunica, I emphasized that in further talks on the issue of Kosovo, especially when the status of the Province comes up, in addition to the international community, participants should include representatives of democratic Serbia and Yugoslavia, representatives of the Kosovo Albanians but representatives of the Kosovo Serbs, too. And not as in Rambouillet, where everyone was present except for the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija. Kostunica completely agreed with this.
DANAS: Among the Kosovo Serbs there are several different movements. Will there be problems regarding the election of their representatives as we have already heard statements to the effect that "Kouchner's Serbs" will no longer negotiate with the international community?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Before there was talk of "Alija's Serbs" in Bosnia and Sarajevo, and now there is talk of "Kouchner's Serbs" in Kosovo. This is simply nonsense for which there is absolutely no room. Most probably a method will be found who will decide and how who among the Kosovo Serbs will negotiate. Individuals will not make this decision: it will either be made by the state of Serbia or the Serbs in Kosovo themselves will find appropriate representatives who will represent their interests in those negotiations.
DANAS: What could the political changes in Belgrade possibly mean for UNMIK's local elections in Kosovo and the end of October?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: I think that these changes will not significantly influence those local elections, especially because the Serbs will not be participating in them. Because of our present situation, we do not have the basic conditions for participating in any kind of elections. Officially we did not participate in the Yugoslav elections either. However, where it was possible to do so, some people voted. This will probably also be the case with these local elections in which some enclaves, especially those in the north of Kosovo will participate, at least partially.
DANAS: Has the change of the government in Belgrade created the conditions, finally, for the creation of a common Serbian platform on Kosovo which you have been advocating for a long time, going back to the time of the Church-People's Assembly?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: The course of events in Kosovo and in Serbia has shown that all other options except for that represented by the SNC lead to defeat and that only that option could be the platform of all Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija if they choose to accept it. If not, we will stay with our position, and they can seek other platforms which will be more fruitful and useful. We will be happy if they find them and if they come to life. We need to ask the question what we would have gotten in Kosovo during the past six months had we acted in accordance with the wishes of individuals and withdrawn from the interim administration of Kosovo, if we had not participated in its meetings, if we had not testified on the situation of the Serb people before international forums, before the Security Council, in the State Department and other places. The Serb people are now in a much better position than they were before and than they would be in if we were not present there.
Recently the position of international representatives, even of Kouchner himself, clearly shows that the needs of the Serb people in Kosovo are greatly respected and that work is being done on improving the quality of life.
DANAS: When the mother state takes over its responsibilities toward Kosovo and Metohija, will this reduce the need for the activity of the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: That will depend of the development of events. We do not insist that we will continue to be indispensable. I have always said that I am involved with these issues only because those who should be taking care of the people are not doing their job. If our mother state and the new government takes over concrete responsibility of our people in Kosovo, then there is no need for us to be engaged. I have my responsibilities as a bishop in the Church. The others in the Council have their professions. We absolutely are not indispensable if the new government become engaged. Therefore, the SNC will exist for as long as it is needed by the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija.
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Silence in Kosovo following Kostunica's victory
DANAS: What were the reactions of the Kosovo Serbs and Albanians after the official change of the government in Belgrade?
BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Unfortunately, I must say that the reaction was an expression of general sorrow and sadness. In some places, for example in Leposavic, the victory of the democratic forces in Serbia was modestly celebrated, while in other parts, concretely, I can say in Gracanica and the surrounding locations, there was absolute silence on the night when all of Serbia celebrated. What happened came as a shock to them, since more or less all of them voted for their beloved leaders and consequently his fall, as far as the Kosovo Serbs are concerned, caused sorrow and sadness. However, I think that on the side of the Kosovo Albanians as well this change in the government was experienced as a great loss and blow because all of them feel that democratic changes in Serbia will attract the attention of the international community and that all issues relating to Kosovo will be resolved through agreement, consensus and always together with the representatives of the democratic government in Serbia and Yugoslavia.
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