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The Information Service of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Washington, DC (USA), July 25, 2000

With today's press conference and the public presentation of the Joint Declaration in the facilities of the US Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, the five-day conference at Airlie House in Virginia at which Serb and Albanian representatives from Kosovo and Metohija discussed the most important issues in this Province came to a close.

Despite existing disagreements between the delegations, a high degree of friendliness and willingness for dialog was demonstrated by both delegations; consequently, the conference at Airlie House is of historic significance as perhaps the first serious and constructive meeting of a relatively large number of representatives of the Serb and the Albanian people of Kosovo and Metohija in the entire history of this Province, and most especially during the last tumultuous century. For the first time, Albanians and Serbs openly and constructively discussed their future, their views of the existing problems in Kosovo as well as ways of overcoming difficulties.

Under the very professional moderation of the the representatives of the US Institute for Peace (USIP), the members of the delegations discussed elections, media, civil society, security, the return of displaced persons and the battle against extremism.

From the very intensive discussions and the adopted joint declaration, it is apparent that both the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija desire a peaceful, democratic and tolerant society in which all residents will have equal rights and freedoms. With the goal of beginning to build such a society in accordance with the mandate of Resolution 1244, the formation of temporary democratic institutions is foreseen which should help that responsible representatives of the communities, together with the international missions, create the necessary conditions for the peaceful coexistence of all.

The Serb delegation came to this conference with the clear awareness that dialog is the only path toward a better future but also with the firm conviction that the scope of the discussion at the conference could only be within the mandate of Resolution 1244, i.e., not in the name of the Serbian state but only on behalf of that part of our community which supports our work. Consequently, there was no debate or discussion at Airlie House regarding the status of Kosovo. The Serb delegation separately testified regarding the lack of basic freedoms and rights for the Serb people, as well as for other non-Albanian communities. The Albanian delegation insisted on the integration of the Serbs into the post-war Kosovo society even though it failed to provide a clear strategy how to provide the security and freedom necessary for this process.

By its position that elections are an essential democratic process but, at the same time, that basic freedoms necessary to fair elections do not exist, the Serb delegation clearly demonstrated that the responsibility for the issue cannot lie exclusively with the Serb people. The international community does not have the moral right to ask for Serb participation in elections if it does not enable all voters the freedom and the right to come to the polling booths in safety. On the other hand, the SNC is ready to accept the naming of Serb representatives if this is the decision of the special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and to recognize election results even under these conditions if they are first recognized by the international community. As a result, the Serb people in the Province will not be isolated despite their nonparticipation in elections and they will be able to participate in the processes of society.

By its willingness to come to Airlie House, the Serb delegation has demonstrated that it favors dialog and cooperation with the international community and the Albanians although it came "with a knife at its throat" and under extremely difficult conditions. This creates an even greater obligation for the international community and the leaders of the Kosovo Albanians to enable a peaceful and dignified life for the Serb people in the Province.


On Friday, July 28, a press conference will be organized in the Media Center in Belgrade with Bishop Artemije and several other members of the Serb delegation from Airlie House. For additonal information, we request that you contact the Belgrade Media Center or the office of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren in Belgrade at +381-11-180-895.


The text of the joint Serb-Albanian Declaration which was reached at Airlie House Conference, July 21-23, 2000.

Airlie, Virginia, July 23, 2000

Representatives of the Serb and Albanian communities within Kosovo met together in Airlie, Virginia from July 21-23, 2000, with the facilities of the United States Institute of Peace. This meeting followed earlier meetings held September 9-13, 1999, in Lansdowne, Virginia, with representatives of the Albanian community, December 10-12, 1999, in Sofia, Bulgaria, with representatives from the Serb community, and May 3-6, 2000, with representatives of both communities living in the Gnjilane/Gjilan area of Kosovo. These earlier meetings had resulted in declarations outlining many shared elements for a vision of Kosovo’s future and steps toward achieving this vision.

At the Airlie meeting, representatives of the Serb and Albanian communities sought to identify specific steps that members of the two communities could take together to begin to convert the bold words of these declarations to real accomplishments on the ground in Kosovo. Representatives pledged to continue to process begun at Airlie when they return to Kosovo.

At the Airlie meeting, both Albanians and Serbs have faced each other in a spirit of searching together for positive steps, which can be taken toward building a peaceful accommodation, despite the great pains and sorrows suffered in past conflicts. Some of these wounds are so fresh and so deep that they make it difficult to proceed without more time for healing, more evidence of a mutual confronting of these pains, more reaching out to one another in a spirit of sharing and understanding for past suffering.

Representatives recognize that their two communities are only at the start of a long journey. This journey must begin by dealing with present-day reality. For Serbs, this means recognizing that they should work with the Albanians and others to build democratic institutions and society in Kosovo. For Albanians, this means recognizing that Serbs and others must have equal rights and protection.

Recognizing that both Albanians and Serbs must move on for the sake of their children and grandchildren, and their society, both communities reach out in good faith to overcome grief and to join all others of good will who commit themselves to building peace and democracy in Kosovo. It is for this reason that they have pledged to each other to undertake the steps outlined in this document.


The development of democracy in Kosovo deserves the highest priority, and all participants agreed that free elections are a key element in this process. The positions of the two communities on elections are outlined as follows:

· Albanian views: Albanian representatives insisted upon full participation by the Serb community in registration and voting for municipal councils for this year’s evidence of Serbian commitment to a free and democratic Kosovo. They noted that participation in the electoral process would provide evidence of Serbian commitment to a free and democratic Kosovo. They also noted that there will be difficulties of movement in some parts of Kosovo during the electoral process.

· Serb views: While recognizing the need for elections, Serbian representatives indicated that the conditions have not been created for the Serb to participate. They pointed out that the Serbian community still does not have full freedom of living and movement, while many others remain displaced outside Kosovo.

With registration having closed, only a small minority of potential Serbian voters has been registered. It is therefore quite likely that the municipal elections will unfold without significant Serb participations.

All representatives agreed that the municipal councils in Kosovo should include all ethnic groups. They noted the authority of the Special Representatives of the Secretary General of the UN (SRSG) to make appointments to municipal councils. All agreed that such appointments should be from the municipalities to which they are appointed. Although the Albanians at the Airlie meeting made clear that this appointive alternative was not optimal, they were prepared to accept appointed Serb representatives. All representatives at the Airlie meeting agreed to respect the legitimacy of the elections and electoral outcomes as they are declared free and fair by the SRSG.


Free media are crucial to democratic development. All representatives at the Airlie meeting agreed that the media can and should work together to prevent violence and promote coexistence. Journalists within the group agreed to cooperate on a professional basis and to share information. They pledged to endeavor to profesionalize journalism, uphold democratic values, and respect codes of conduct as steps toward media self-regulation.

Representatives heard a briefing by a representative of the OSCE on measures being taken to license media outlets operating in Kosovo. They agreed that actions should be taken by the SRSG to prevent the import of hate-filled print, radio, and TV media into Kosovo. Eventually, the crime of hate speech should be incorporated in the final civil and penal codes of Kosovo and prosecuted by the court system. In the meantime, representatives acknowledged the authority of the SRSG to act against those who engage in hate speech. Representatives called attention to the coming launch of a multilingual news service in Kosovo, and they pledged to promote coverage by each ethnic group of other kosovo.netmunity.


Decades of tension and conflict have civil society in Kosovo deeply divided and weak. All acknowledged the importance of stimulating the development of multiethnic elements within civil society. The wounds of the recent past are still too deep to permit anything but the possibility of beginning the vitally needed process of reconciliation. Representatives agreed on the importance of looking boldly toward the future and finding ways to witness to their experiences in conflict. They agreed that their meeting at Airlie House was an ambitious first step in dialogue. They pledged that upon their return to Kosovo, they would act jointly through the media to promote awerness of this new beginning.


We agree to launch a new initiative - Campaign Against Violence – That will include the following elements:

· We agree beginning today to a Pact Against Violence to promote tolerance, condemn violence, prevent negative exploitation of ethnic issues, and enable physical integration and political participation by all. · The Campaign will include a Day Against Violence on a date set by the Kosovo Transitional Council – a date before the beginning of the electoral campaign – when Kosovo leaders will publicly appear together in Pristina and later in other centers in Kosovo. · These leaders will visit local communities throughout Kosovo to promote the Campaign Against Violence and seek to convince citizens that the time for re-integration has come. · We will establish local multi-ethnic citizens’ dialogues on practical issues of interest to all citizens of Kosovo and ask that UNMIK and KFOR provide the security required. · Particular attention will be given to eliminating ethnic hatred and violence by and among children and to preventing the use of children to promote violence. · We agreed to seek release of prisoners and kidnapped persons and location of missing persons. · A media campaign will be an integral part of this effort.

To reduce the power of extremists we:

· Ask that members of all communities hand in illegal weapons and call on KFOR and UNMIK to confiscate weapons, · Call on KFOR and UNMIK to guard and control more effectively all entry into Kosovo, · Request that UNMIK move immediately to stand-up a functioning court and prison system, · Ask members of our own communities to identify perpetrators of crime, including crimes committed against other ethnic groups, · Request that UNMIK establish a safe channel (“hot line” or other) for citizens to assist in the identification and apprehension of perpetrators of crime, · Support the work of the Hague Tribunal, as well as criminal courts, in dealing with crimes against humanity and all other crimes in Kosovo, and we want to bring all responsible, inside or outside of Kosovo, to justice, · Insist on the immediate dissolution of all parallel governing and security structures.


In order to facilitate return of displaced people and refugees to their homes, we:

· Recognize that return is a fundamental right and is essential to the future of Kosovo, and we will promote returns, in accordance with international law, with clear, unambiguous statements and actions within our respective communities, · Urge people illegally in Kosovo to leave, especially those occupying the homes of others, · Encourage – and pledge to cooperate in – organize visits of displaced persons to their homes under UNMIK/KFOR auspices, · Commit ourselves to preparing local communities for returns by members of the other ethnic group, · Encourage augmented communication between the displaced and their towns of origin, · Insist on fresh efforts by UNMIK and KFOR to provide great security for implementing returns, and to expand aid for reconstruction and economic revival in those communities accepting returns, · Invite the international community to encourage returns by providing those municipalities that organize them effectively with the economic wherewithal to sustain them. · KFOR and UNMIK are responsible for public safety and civil law and order under the current post-war arrangements pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The representatives agreed that the levels of security and freedom of movement in Kosovo today are not acceptable. A new model of security and law enforcement is need. Establishing this new model will be a two-way street between citizens of Kosovo and the international community. On the one hand, the Serb and Albanian communities must cooperate to do what they can do to enhance security, both on their own and in cooperation with UNMIK and KFOR. A number of steps in this regard have already been described. On the other hand, the international community must overcome its differences so that UNMIK and KFOR can take much stronger measures to carry out their security and law enforcement responsibilities. KFOR and UNMIK must engage in a coordinated effort to assert their authority equally in all parts of Kosovo, including countering the influence of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo. UNMIK and KFOR must close down all unauthorized security forces operating in Kosovo, whether they originate from Kosovo or outside. The representatives want the international community to remain committed to the future of Kosovo. But they recognize that the international community will not support a Kosovo cleansed of some of its ethnic communities. Rather, all these communities must work together to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo respecting the rights of all its citizens.

Representatives participating in meeting:

Mahmut Bakali, Ethem Ceku, Father Kirilo Djurkovic, Vjosa Dobruna, Baton Haxhiu, Arben Hoxha, Ylber Hysa, Skender Hyseni,,Father Sava Janjic, Januz Januzaj, Kaqusha Jashari, Petar Jeknic, Naim Jerliu, Margarita Kadriu, Aferdita Kelmendi, Nekibe Kelmendi, Slavisa Kolasinac, Mark Krasniqi, Ismajl Kurteshi, Eqrem Kryeziu, Naim Maloku, Esat Marovca, Basri Musmurati, Dragan Nikolic, Sonja Nikolic, Randjel Nojkic, Pajazit Nushi, Luljeta Pula-Beqiri, Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic, Nenad Radosavljevic, Dusan Ristic, Slavisa Ristic, Bajram Rexhepi, Ibrahim Rugova, Edita Tahiri, Hashim Thaci, Rada Trajkovic, Father Petar Ulemek, Dragan Velic, Ariana Zherka.

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