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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija
Gracanica, August 23, 2000 [ADDENDUM]
At the very beginning of the conference, Episcope Artemije very energetically emphasized that unfortunately the conference in Airlie House has remained words on paper considering that ethnic and political violence in Kosovo and Metohija in the meanwhile have continued in even greater force. Received with especial pain by the Serb community was the recent bomb attack against Serb children near Obilic. Upon his very return from the U.S., Mr. Thaci immediately distanced himself from the Declaration, stating that he had gone to the U.S. as a private citizen and not as a representative of his party, which proved once again to everyone in Kosovo that political circles close to the KLA do not want peace and democracy. This further stirred up already existing convictions that it is these very circles which are sponsoring the continuation of violence toward political ends. This is especially manifest in the increasingly greater wave of political acts of terror among the Kosovo Albanians themselves where members of moderate political parties are victims on almost a daily basis. Especially shocking was the murder of the president of the LDK (the party of Ibrahim Rugova) in Klina who was kidnapped, murdered and burned by the terrorists to the horror of everyone. Attacks on Serbs, said Bishop Artemije, are also still everyday occurrences: the weak and the old are being attacked, children are being shot, bombs are being set and Orthodox churches destroyed, Serb houses are being set on fire and people are being kidnapped. The Serb community justifiably is asking itself whether the Albanian leaders truly have no respect and authority among their people or whether they appeared at Airlie in an insincere and hypocritical manner just to oblige the Western public in its role as representative of peace and democracy. The SNC does not regret its participation in Airlie because the Serb community thus demonstrated that it is against violence, that it is prepared to cooperate and to reconcile, and that it wishes to cooperate with the international community. This position gives the SNC the full moral right to publicly point out crimes as acts of supreme insanity and immorality. For the same reason, the delegation of the SNC also chose to participate in the conference in Pristina today, aware that it must continue to testify and request an end to the persecution and murdering of the Serb people despite the fact that it has been driven into a corner.
Unfortunately, during the course of the discussion the Albanian representatives not only failed to condemn concretely the newest wave of violence but Mr. Ethem Ceku, the municipal head in Pec and a former leader of the KLA in that region, publicly stated that after the return from the U.S. allegedly not a single interethnic incident occurred in Pec. Bishop Artemije and Dr. Trajkovic as well as the other Serb representatives reacted very sharply to this provocative claim as there have been multiple attacks on the village of Gorazdevac and other forms of violence during this period. "Of course, there has not been as much interethnic violence because you have already expelled and murdered everyone," Bishop Artemije shouted very energetically in front of the entire gathering and rose together with the entire Serb delegation, leaving the room where the conference was being held. The Serb delegation then relocated upon the insistence of U.S. diplomats to the neighboring building of the U.S. mission where talks continued for the next two hours with Ambassador John Menzies, Daniel Serwer and the head of the U.S. mission, Christopher Dell.
During the talks, the Serb side made it very clear that the SNC delegation appeared at this conference primarily to honor the good will of the host but that it was not prepared to accept the hypocrisy of Albanian leaders who refuse to confront the fact that terrorism exists in Kosovo which must be condemned by action, not only by abstract statements against violence or by assigning responsibility for these misdeeds to some phantom secret service of Milosevic. Protosyncellus Sava specifically emphasized the moral and political responsibility of the U.S. administration to support the UN mission and KFOR in identifying and arresting the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, as well as to take the same measures against terrorism in the Province which are being applied against terrorism throughout the entire civilized world. It is unacceptable to organize any kind of joint event between Serb and Albanian leaders on the streets of Pristina until the Albanian leaders publicly and decisively distance themselves from the crimes which have been committed for more than a year against Serbs, Roma, Bosniacs and other communities, and most recently against moderate Albanian political representatives as well.
The representatives of the SNC agreed with fact that violence in Kosovo cannot be stopped by the international community alone no matter how many troops it brings to the Province and that it is necessary to have intensive engagement of all Kosovo political circles to achieve this. However, the representatives of the Council emphasized that the international community is responsible according to Resolution 1244 to identify violence and its perpetrators, and to act toward them accordingly, and not to continue to tolerate their crimes and abuses with the goal of avoiding casualties among its own ranks. This behavior will ultimately lead to the final collapse of the already compromised mission and it represents the shame of those who bombed a country and its people in the name of democracy only to later permit the violence of extremists against unprotected and helpless people. "You bombed my country and my people to stop the suffering of the Albanians, and now you are unwilling to stop and to punish the Albanian terrorists who are committing new crimes in Kosovo," Dr. Rada Trajkovic told the U.S. diplomats.
The U.S. representatives expressed the intention to try to mediate between the representatives of the Serbs and Albanians in order to establish at least a minimum consensus and to continue the process begun at Airlie. After almost an hour of "shuttle diplomacy", a joint statement was agreed upon which condemns every form of violence in Kosovo and most especially the destruction of religious and cultural monuments. All representatives unanimously and openly condemned the cowardly attack on Serb children near Obilic and agreed on a campaign against violence to begin today. September 9 has been selected as the day when the leaders of both communities will appear before their communities in their locations and express their protest against violence and crime. Also scheduled are international and joint appearances in the media in order to jointly condemn violence as unacceptable and immoral for all in Kosovo. It was confirmed that the process from Airlie House is to continue even though it is now apparent to all that this will be a long-term, difficult process of building awareness of the fact that a democratic society can be built only with full respect for the rights of all citizens of that society.
Even though the conference ended with the relatively uncomfortable feeling of lack of confidence and understanding, nevertheless it would appear that the majority of participants accepted the conviction that Kosovo will be able to have a better future only if violence truly stops and if the rule of law and order is established. U.S. representatives once again repeated their firm position that the relationship of the U.S. administration toward political representatives in Kosovo will be based on their efficacy in implementing the principles from Airlie House, and not on their rhetoric. According to Chris Dell, those who fail to publicly distance themselves from violence and condemn it by their personal example will may a high political price, especially in the coming local elections.
At the end of the conference, which lasted until 7:00 p.m., a short press conference was held. Speakers included Christopher Dell, the head of the U.S. mission; Professor Pajazit Nushi, a representative of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights of Pristina; and Protosyncellus Sava Janjic, the spokesman of the SNC.
Prioress Makarija Obradovic is certainly the most educated Serbian nun living in the small Sokolica Monastery not far from Zvecan. Prioress Makarija was formerly a professor of chemistry at the University of Belgrade, after which she completed her theology studies at the Faculty of Theology at Salonika and took her monastic vows in the renowned Greek monastery of Ormilija on the Halkidiki peninsula. In her search for the springs of spirituality, Prioress Makarija has on several occasions visited the Holy Land and the ancient monasteries of Egypt and she is one of the foremost experts on Egyptian monasticism. Mother Makarija is our renowned painter of frescoes and iconographer, an expert in and respected teacher of Orthodox iconography.
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