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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija
Gracanica, November 16, 2000
Yesterday Dr. Rada Trajkovic, the vice-president of the Democratic Christian Party of Serbia (DHSS) and the representative of the SNC in the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo, visited Vitina together with the president of the regional SNC of the Gnjilane region, Archmonk Kirilo Djurkovic.
In Vitina Dr. Trajkovic held a meeting with all representatives of Serb villages and the town of Vitina itself in order to familiarize herself with the situation in this region. Representatives of the people who gathered in large number informed Dr. Trajkovic that recently a serious deterioration in the security situation came about, especially after the murder of an eminent Serb from Vitina, Slobodan Jovanovic, on November 2, 2000. Not long after the murder of Jovanovic, Albanian extremists attacked and looted his house thus conveying the message that their goal remains the expulsion of all Serbs from this area. The situation is also grave in the region of the nearby villages of Klokot and Vrbovac where pressure by Albanian extremists on the Serbs is increasing. The rare Croats who remain are not spared from this pressure, either. The Croat village of Letnica is almost completely empty and a few Croat children who are being taught by a Serb teacher are the only remaining pupils from this community.
Dr. Rada Trajkovic told the gathered Serbs that the SNC would continue to do everything to ensure the survival of the Serbs and the return of refugees and that the Serb people can survive only with the support of two basic pillars of support which have been our foundation throughout history - the Serbian state and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The SNC will make special efforts in the building of unity among all Serbs who are prepared, together with their democratic government headed by President Kostunica and Bishop Artemije and our Church, to do everything to enable the survival and stay of our people in this region.
On her return, Dr. Trajkovic also visited Gnjilane and the monastery of Draganac, an important Orthodox shrine in the Gnjilane region.
Dr. Rada Trajkovic and Randjel Nojkic also met with the political advisor of U.S. General Hardy, Major Fernandez, who expressed special interest in the position of the SNC with regard to the upcoming Republic of Serbia elections in Kosovo and Metohija. The representatives of the SNC replied to Major Fernandez's question whether they are prepared to accept voting by mail that Kosovo is not a foreign country from which Serbs should participate in elections by mail. Kosovo and Metohija is an integral part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia and consequently the Serbs in the southern Province have the full and legitimate right to participate in elections which for security reasons will most likely be organized in places where necessary security conditions exist, that is, in the Serb enclaves.
The SNC maintains the firm position that the status of Kosovo and Metohija cannot be discussed without the active participation of the new democratic government of FRY and the Kosovo-Metohija Serbs. The fundamental starting point for such talks must be Resolution 1244 which has not been implemented in our southern Province as for more than a year and a half there have been gross violation of the human rights and freedoms of the non-Albanian population, especially of the Serbs and the Roma, in the presence of the UN mission and KFOR forces. Initiating the question of the fate of Kosovo and Metohija in the context of Dayton is unacceptable as normal and democratic conditions are presently being created for that issue to be resolved in a legal manner in accordance with international law and respect for the sovereignty of UN member countries, including FRY. Consequently, eventual talks on Kosovo in Dayton can only be part of an academic and unofficial discussion and therefore it is understandable that FRY is not represented at the highest level at this conference.
The SNC has been advised by the U.S. office in Pristina that an invitation to the Dayton conference addressed to Bishop Artemije was duly sent although Episcope Artemije's secretary could not confirm the receipt of this invitation as there was likely a misunderstanding which resulted in the invitation being overlooked. Due to these circumstances, the SNC was unable to respond to the invitation in a timely manner.
The SNC expresses its hope that the conference in Dayton will contribute to the further preservation of peace and stability throughout the entire region with full respect for international borders and the sovereignty of all UN member countries but also of the political entities established by the Dayton agreement.
It is the firm position of the SNC that the Dayton conference must be a factor of stability, not of further disintegration in the region.
At yesterday's press conference held in the UNMIK center in Pristina, Protosyncellus Sava Janjic emphasized that the international community and UNMIK cannot continue to ignore the existence of the Yugoslav state and its sovereign rights as FRY is a member of both the United Nations and OSCE. Consequently, all serious issues in the future should be resolved in full cooperation with the legal organs of the democratic Yugoslav state which must be represented in Kosovo and Metohija as well, said Father Sava.
In answer to the question of Albanian reporters whether that implied the return of the Yugoslav Army, Father Sava said that at this moment conditions for this do not exist; however, it is possible to have civil representatives, especially at the border crossings. Yugoslav staff also can be engaged in the future through the UN and OSCE to which Yugoslav belongs. As well, not to be excluded is the possibility that members of the Yugoslav Army may come to Kosovo and Metohija as part of the composition of KFOR as FRY is expected to integrate quickly into European and North Atlantic structures in the near future.
In a discussion yesterday with the Ombudsman in Kosovo and Metohija, Ambassador Marek Nowicki, Protosyncellus Sava placed special emphasis on the right of the Serb community to protect its right to spoken and written language in the region of Kosovo and Metohija. During the last year and a half, we have been witnesses to the international community's and the UN mission's disregard of the systematic campaign of erasing the Serb language and cultural identity in the Province. In international documents and reports with increasing frequency we see the use of exclusively Albanian place names and the persistent omission of official names of cities which exist in all geographical maps. Few international representatives use the name of Urosevac which is now publicly called only Ferizaj. Srbica is almost always Skenderaj, and Vucitrn is exclusively called Vustri, allegedly because it easier for some people to pronounce.
In addition to the fact that all Serbian language signage has been removed, the Cyrillic alphabet has also been abolished and consequently all official documents in the Serbian language are printed exclusively in the Roman alphabet which is not the traditional alphabet of the Serbian language. The SNC is currently preparing a detailed memorandum in which it will request full respect for the linguistic and cultural identity of the Serbs as well as mandatory use of the Cyrillic alphabet for all signage in the Serbian language, emphasized Father Sava Janjic.
Another problem is the suppression of the identity of smaller ethnic communities such as the Gorani who overnight have been declared to be "Bosniacs" even though they have no connection whatsoever with Bosnia. This policy of Bosniac identity for all Muslims of Slavic origin in Kosovo is being most strongly promoted by Numan Balic, the president of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action of Kosovo, to the direct detriment of the Gorani and the Torbesi, who have their separate cultural identity, language and tradition.
Some representatives of UNMIK as well as representatives of the international community also persistently talk of the "Kosovar" people, i.e., all those who live in Kosovo and Metohija, attempting in this manner to create conditions for the establishment of a new nation and, eventually, a new state. The Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija cannot accept Albanian terminology such as the word "Kosovar". Serbs in Kosovo are indeed "people from Kosovo" [Kosovci] but they are first and foremost Serbs and they feel they are citizens of the state of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Hence, we cannot talk about a "Kosovar culture" or "Kosovar tradition" since in this region we have Serb, Albanian and other cultures but not a distinct "Kosovo" culture as Kosovo and Metohija throughout their history have never been separate political or cultural entities.
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