MEETING OF THE SERB NATIONAL COUNCIL OF
KOSOVO AND METOHIA

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

Gracanica, June 25, 2000

Today, on June 25 a special meeting of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohia was held in Gracanica Monastery. Eighty three SNC delegates from the Central Kosovo, Gnjilane, Brezovica and Metohia regions took part at the meeting which was chaired by His Grace Bishop Artemije. This meeting was convened as a continuation of the previous SNC meeting (June 4) in order to discuss the further work of the SNC in its efforts to provide better protection and organization for the Serb Orthodox community in Kosovo and Metohia.

At the beginning of the meeting the delegates prayed for the repose of the souls of those Serbs who had been killed in the recent terrorist attacks. SNC again condemned the ethnic Albanian terrorism and made a strong appeal that the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

Bishop Artemije informed the SNC delegates about the results of the visit of the special SNC delegation to New York and Washington between 7th and 12th of June. In the UN Headquarters in New York the Delegation had meetings with the leading representatives of the Security Council member-states and was present at the Meeting of the Security Council on Kosovo. After New York, the Delegation visited Washington D.C. and attended a meeting with the State Secretary, Madeleine Albright and her team in the State Department.

As a result of the visit to the United States and the subsequent negotiations with the representatives of the UN Mission in Kosovo, the highest UNMIK officials with the support of the US Administration, agreed to make a written commitment to undertake several urgent measures which should improve the life of the Serb community in the Province. The UNDERSTANDING will be a basis for the further cooperation of the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija with UN Mission in Kosovo and KFOR for the period of next three months.

The delegates were also informed about the activities of KFOR, EU and some NGO's who had been working on improvement of the life of the Serb community. Despite the extremely difficult security situation the efforts to assist the Serb community cannot be ignored and represent an encouragement for the Serb people in Kosovo.

The delegates were given a copy of the Draft of the UNDERSTANDING between SNC and UNMIK. After a discussion of the presented document and the wider context of the political and security situation in Kosovo and Metohia the majority of the delegates supported the further participation of the SNC representatives in IAC and KTC, in the status of observers for the next period of three months. During this period UNMIK would continue working on the implementation of the UNDERSTANDING. Bishop Artemije, as a SNC President, was authorized to sign the text of the UNDERSTANDING with the SRSG Dr. Bernard Kouchner.

Due to expressed opposition to the decision of the majority of the SNC delegates Mr. Momcilo Trajkovic and Slavisa Kostic with two more delegates left the meeting.

Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohia

 

PRESS REPORTS:

Despite Doubts, Kosovo Serbs Vote to Cooperate with UN

GRACANICA, Jun 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Leaders of Kosovo's embattled Serbs threw in
their lot with the United Nations on Sunday, deciding that cooperation not confrontation
was the only way forward.

The Serbian National Council (SNC), representing the Serb minority in the province,
voted to return to U.N.-led inter-ethnic institutions, saying it was the only way for Serbs
to survive in what they regard as the cradle of their people.

"The results of the work of the UN mission (in Kosovo) so far cannot be called a
success, at least concerning the Serb community, but...we cannot live on rhetoric and
criticism, we have to give our own constructive contribution," said Father Sava Jancic, a
Serbian Orthodox priest and SNC spokesman.

Eighty-three SNC delegates met at the Orthodox monastery in this Serb-held town
southeast of the Kosovo capital Pristina, and with only four dissenting voices agreed to
rejoin the bodies it walked out of 15 days ago in protest at the level of violence in the
province against the Serbian minority.

And in a move towards moderation, contrasting with violent statements in Belgrade, the
SNC indicated that it was looking for support from the United States, which little more
than a year ago led NATO bombing raids directed at the Serbs.

Father Sava told reporters after the four-hour-long SNC conclave that a visit last week
by James O'Brien, special representative of President Bill Clinton and the U.S. State
Department, had been instrumental in drawing the Serbs back into the talks.

NEW UN PROGRAMME TO SAFGEGUARD SERBS

Father Sava said UNMIK, the UN interim mission in Kosovo, had agreed to devise a
new program aimed at improving the lot of the Serbs.

"The very fact that one of the important goals of Mr. O'Brien's visit to Kosovo was
working with the Serb community on implementation of this program and the interest
which has been shown by the Secretary of State in Washington gives us assurance that
there is will in the U.S. administration to improve the security situation which, according
to their own assessment, is very bad" he said.

Until the NATO campaign forced the Yugoslav army to withdraw, the 90-percent ethnic
Albanian majority in Serbia's southern province were ruled by Belgrade with a heavy
hand.

Since the bombing ended, more than half the Serb minority have fled to Serbia proper,
and those who remain live in heavily guarded areas patrolled by troops of the NATO-led
KFOR (Kosovo Force).

Roads into Gracanica are guarded by Swedish checkpoints, and as the SNC delegates
talked, the ancient monastery was ringed by soldiers and armored vehicles, many of them
British, American and Polish, which had escorted them to the meeting.

Their protection is needed: attacks on Serbs have continued since the SNC boycott began
on June 10, but Father Sava said: "That makes more urgent more active participation of
the SNC with the international community to prevent these attacks."

He said the understanding between UNMIK and the SNC would take the form of a
written commitment to improving the position of the Serb population in Kosovo.

This would include:

- Deployment of additional UNMIK police forces in Serb areas

- More Serb candidates in the Kosovo police force

- More international judges to be employed in Kosovo

- Continuation of work on the return of Serbs within the Committee for the Returns
headed by Serbian Bishop Artemije and UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner
and others

- Opening of local community offices in Serb areas where local Serbs together with
UNMIK local officials would work on the "burning issues of the Serbian community"

- A special committee for protection of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.


BBC World Service
Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK

Kosovo Serbs to rejoin province's administration

Serb leaders in Kosovo have decided to rejoin the
United Nations-sponsored joint administration of the
province.

They withdrew three weeks ago in protest at a recent
upsurge in anti-Serb violence.

After a meeting of the Serb National Council in Kosovo,
a spokesman Sava Janjic said delegates had concluded
the only way to improve matters was to play a part in
the administration.

But he said co-operation depended on more police
being deployed in areas targeted by ethnic Albanian
extremists.