INTERVIEW WITH BISHOP ARTEMIJE

NIN, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Issue 2582, June 22, 2000

Renewed attempt

The Serb delegation in New York was promised the creation of special security units,
more Serbs in the Kosovo police and the foundations of Serb local self-government

By LIDIJA KUJUNDZIC

The bishop of Raska and Prizren arrived from the United States on June 16 at the crack of dawn. On the same day he left for Gracanica to meet with Bernard Kouchner, the special envoy of the UN secretary general for Kosovo and Metohija, on the following day. Their meet was not cordial, and the reasons for Kouchner's reserve remained in New York. Namely, before the beginning of the meeting of the Security Council, which the delegation of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija attended as a guest on June 9, Bernard Kouchner, theatrically attempted to embrace the bishop in order to demonstrate to what extent he was intimate with the bishop to everyone present in the auditorium. However, the bishop of Raska and Prizren was unwilling to return Kouchner's geniality; he remained motionless and reserved.

"One year after the signing and adoption of Resolution 1244 and everything that has
happened in Kosovo and Metohija it was essential that the representatives of the
Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija appear in New York. We were in the right place at the
right time," says Bishop Artemije.

The main diplomatic discussions took place prior to and following the session of the
Security Council. Although it was prepared, the official statement of the Security
Council was not published because the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the
UN, Sergei Lavrov, vetoed it.

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: On the first day the delegation of the Serbs of Kosovo was received
by the missions [to the UN] of Greece, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, France and
China. In the evening hours we were received by James Pardew (sp?) of the State
Department who was accompanied by Jonathan Levitzky, the advisor to the US
ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke. The delegation had two half-hour meetings
with Richard Holbrooke and the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UN, Mr.
Lavrov.

NIN: How did those discussions go?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Everywhere we were carefully listened to because we presented the concrete problems of the Serb people in Kosovo. The seriousness with which our
presentations were accepted is best attested to by the fact that thirteen of a total
of fifteen ambassadors of member countries of the Security Council presented the
criticisms of our delegation and sharply condemned the violence in Kosovo and
expressed their willingness to stop it. As well, the fact that French ambassador [to
the UN] Jean David Levitt, the president of the Security Council, spoke with our
delegation for one hour and fifteen minutes and personally escorted us to the
session of the Council speaks for itself.

NIN: However, there were some who were bothered by the presence of the delegation of the Serbs from Kosovo?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: American ambassador [to the UN] Richard Holbrooke was negative in his stance toward our delegation. He was of the opinion that the other side, that
is, the Albanians, were being discriminated against, and that the presence of only
the Serb delegation created a precedent which cannot be consistent with the
tradition of the Security Council. However, after the very unpleasant and arrogant
speech of Richard Holbrooke, UN secretary general Kofi Annan rose from the table and
came forward to greet us. He shook hands with all of us and welcomed us. There is no
question that this was observed by Mr. Holbrooke who immediately left the session.

NIN: At the session of the Security Council Bernard Kouchner presented a report on
the work of the UN civil mission in Kosovo and Metohija. Does that report
objectively reflect the situation in Kosovo and Metohija?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Dr. Kouchner spoke first at the meeting of the Council and he spoke
at some length. His report is not objective because he presented only positive
things, remaining silent regarding everything which could be considered a failure on
the part of the mission. The mission was successful only with respect to one party
in Kosovo, with respect to the Albanians. In only one month, 800,000 Albanians
returned to Kosovo and the mission was successfully in providing for them over the
winter, preventing anyone from freezing or starving to death. Much was done on the
reconstruction of their burnt and destroyed houses, an Albanian local government of
sorts has been established... As far as the Serbs and the other non-Albanian
residents of Kosovo and Metohija are concerned, the UN mission is a complete
failure, even with respect to [UN Security Council] Resolution 1244 which foresees
the creation and construction of a multiethnic, democratic Kosovo, and a peaceful
and secure life for all who live in Kosovo. None of this was mentioned by Bernard
Kouchner in the course of his report.

NIN: You were also received by Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state. On
what did you insist on that occasion?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: On Sunday, June 11, the delegation left for Washington because
Madeleine Albright, having heard we were in America, expressed the desire to meet
with us. Even though she was hurrying to the funeral of Syrian president Assad, she
received us for an official 20 minute visit, and on that occasion I reminded her of
what we had agreed upon in February. I emphasized that nothing at all of the
agreement had been realized. She expressed regret and said that she would discuss it
the following day with her associates. On Monday we were in the State Department
again with Strobe Talbott and his assistants. The discussion lasted approximately 45
minutes and it continued with Jim O'Bryan (sp?) who was recently in Kosovo to convey
a sharp message and warning from Madeleine Albright to the Albanian leaders with
regard to the newest violence being carried out against the Serbs. We spoke based on
a document which we prepared with Mr. Dusan Batakovic. In seven points we presented what it was most essential to do in Kosovo and Metohija. Each of these points was analyzed separately and we discussed concretely what could be done within the framework of each point to improve the quality of life of the Serbs and other
non-Albanian population in Kosovo.

NIN: Do you expect that after all these diplomatic discussion the situation in
Kosovo and Metohija will improve concretely?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: We hope that the international community within the next few weeks will make a greater effort to stop the violence against the Serbs and other
non-Albanian population, and that the speed of returns by expelled Serbs will
increase.

NIN: Resolution 1244 foresees a symbolic presence by the Yugoslav Army and police in
Kosovo and Metohija. Was this issue mentioned in New York and Washington?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: There was no discussion regarding the return of members of the
Yugoslav Army and police. We were told that conditions were not favorable for this
part of the Resolution to be implemented.

NIN: Although the international community has been unsuccessful in securing even the
most rudimentary security, and returns for Serbs and other non-Albanian population,
there is an insistence that local elections in Kosovo and Metohija be held in
October. Did you have the opportunity while in the US to express your position on
this issue?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Mr. Talbott emphasized the need for cooperation and even
participation of the Serbs in registration for the upcoming elections in October. In
my presentation I demonstrated that his assessment and approach to this issue were
unrealistic and that Serbs cannot be accepted to agree to the elections. Serbs in
Kosovo cannot even accept registration, for without the freedom to live for an
entire community it is not possible to talk about free elections. How, for example,
to conduct a pre-election campaign when none of the Serbs has freedom of movement in Kosovo and Metohija without KFOR accompaniment? Addressing your people while
surrounded by KFOR soldiers just would not work. We cannot even talk about free
elections because the cities have been ethnically cleansed of Serbs and they have
become single nation, Albanian environments. I especially made mention of Pristina
because prior to the arrival of KFOR it was inhabited by 40,000 Serbs and now there
are less than 250 people, primarily elderly ones. Can you please tell who there is
going to register and who is going to vote? The situation in Urosevac, Pec,
Djakovica, Prizren and Gnjilane is even worse. I think that this is a farce of an
election.

NIN: Do you think that the failure of the Serbs and the other non-Albanian
population to participate in the elections would impact the international community,
that is, Bernard Kouchner?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: I do not know but I am certain that they wish these elections to
take place with at least the appearance of legitimacy. However, we cannot vote under
these conditions because our people have not returned to Kosovo, because those of us
who remain are threatened with physical extinction. The failure of the Serb
community to participate in these elections will show that these elections are not
valid.

NIN: Is there any way that the Serbs can prevent the elections from being held?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: We cannot stop them from holding the elections but it is our right
under the present circumstances not to participate in the elections. Since talk
about the elections began to be heard, in January, during all meetings with
diplomats who visit us in Kosovo and with those whom we met abroad, we have stressed this position and I must say that even though many did not accept it, nevertheless, they respected it. The language which I speak is the language of facts that cannot be refuted; consequently, Mr. Talbott could not refute my assertions. Security is the alpha and omega of our discussions, success or failure; that is why, with
respect to the issue of security, it was agreed to create special security units
with the international police, to increase the number of Serbs in the Kosovo police
and to then establish the foundations of Serb local self-government by opening 20
offices in the Serb enclaves where Serbs would carry out all administrative
business.

NIN: Three months have passed during which the Serbs have had observer status in the
Temporary Administrative Council of Kosovo. Will the Serbs withdraw from PAVK,
considering that spectacular results have been lacking?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Prior to departing for America we froze our status within the PAVK
pending our return and a review of the results of our mission. On Saturday we
analyzed with Kouchner his and our visit to the US. It was agreed that on June 25 a
document would be signed in the form in which it is adopted by the Serbian National
Council which would contain, in seven or eight points, what is most essential to be
done with respect to security, the return of expelled persons, local
self-government... If concrete actions are undertaken in Kosovo which will convince
us that serious work is going on to resolve these problems, the Serbs would continue
their observer status in the PAVK for the next three months.

NIN: However, there are many people who consider the presence of the Serbs in the
PAVK to be only a detriment to their interests?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: Our participation is opposed by the Albanians, by the regime of
Slobodan Milosevic, and by our brothers from north Kosovo who say that we have not
accomplished anything in the field. In these two and one half months, the results
have been more than skimpy but we ask ourselves what are the results of those who
did not participate. What does it mean to have positive results? It is a success on
our part that we are permitted to speak regarding our suffering and the attacks on
the Serbian community before the Albanians and before the international community.
Without our participation it is certain that all of the same things would have
happened, perhaps even worse things, and the difference would be that no one would
know anything about it. If we had not made an appearance in New York during the
session of the Security Council, the Serbian problem would not have been mentioned
by so much as a single world; as it is, only two ambassadors [to the UN] remained
deaf to our positions.

NIN: When the committee for the return of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija was formed,
you asked Bernard Kouchner and general-lieutenant colonel Juan Ortuno, the chief
commander of KFOR, to undertake concrete action. How are Serb returns to Osojane and Slivovo going?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: The process of Serb returns is being slowed down by UNHCR which
insists on the establishment of its own parameters with regard to the security
situation. They do not want to risk any of the returnees being killed. They believe
that they are unable to offer adequate security in Osojane. Now they are attempting
to support returns to places where the security is at a higher level. People are
coming to Slivovo and repairing their houses, and some of them have returned. The
situation is similar in Srpski Babus, Babljak, Klobuk and the villages surrounding
Gracanica. The idea is to strengthen the Serb enclaves with returnees.

NIN: Nevertheless, the Serb enclaves in Kosovo and Metohija are not safe?

BISHOP ARTEMIJE: The Albanian extremists attack there as well; they place landmines
in the roads to discourage expelled persons from returning. As the international
community, despite everything, is beginning to address the problems of Serbs in
Kosovo, the Albanian extremists wish to prevent this in some way, to frighten off
the Serbs who would like to return, to expel those Serbs who remain in Kosovo, too.
If some of the expelled persons return to the existing enclaves, it will be easier
to create conditions here for them to return to their homes than if they have to be
brought here from Serbia.

Translated by S. Lazovic (June 25, 2000)


COMMENTARY BY FR SAVA

ALBANIAN EXTREMISM NEEDS TO BE CALLED BY ITS TRUE NAME

Commentary by Father Sava

August 19, 2000

It is with great pain that we received the alarming news regarding the
newest attack by Albanian terrorists in which nine Serb children in the
village of Crkvena Vodica near Obilic were wounded. This attack has torn
the final mask from Albanian terrorism which in full daylight in front
of the entire international community is showing the horrifying portrait
of chaos in Kosovo and Metohija. Under the protectorate of the
international community and the most powerful countries in the world,
murderers of children, destroyers of medieval churches, drug dealers,
organizers of prostitution and white slave marketers are acting with
impunity in Kosovo. Despite the enormous number of terrorist attacks
being carried out with every known type of weapon, including automatic
weapons, rocket launchers, landmines and rifle grenades which are
falling on our monasteries, the highest representatives of UNMIK still
persist in refusing to acknowledge the existence of ALBANIAN
TERRORISM in Kosovo and Metohija, and in talking about "extremism" as an
undefined phenomenon which obscures both its strength and the course of
its development.

Yesterday, on the eve of the Orthodox Christian holy day of the Holy
Transfiguration, Albanian terrorists wished the Serbs a happy holiday by
attacking Serb children who will bear the physical and spiritual scars
of the attack their whole lives; by destroying the only Orthodox church
in the center of the town of Vucitrn; and by a rocket attack on the
building housing the only remaining Serbian institution in Pristina, the
Center for Peace and Tolerance.

Is all this a coincidence? Are these "incidents", "accidents" or open
terrorist attacks aimed at expelling the remaining Serbs from Kosovo and
Metohija?

Perhaps all this would not be so tragic if it were taking place during
wartime, when it is impossible to easily defend civilians from armed
attacks; but all this is happening ONE YEAR following the establishment
of so-called international peace, in the presence of almost 50,000 of
the best trained troops in the world, before the eyes and to the
DISHONOR of the United Nations, the United States, Britain, France,
Germany, Italy and all the other governments which by their silence and
unpreparedness to implement the resolution which they themselves passed
are committing a new crime and injustice against innocent people,
children, the centuries-old and ancient Christian tradition.

During this entire time, Albanian political leaders, expertly trained by
their mentors on how to give colorless and insincere statements in favor
"multiculturalism and multiethnicity", continue to evade confronting the
fact that by their silence and quiet acquiescence to violence, they are
building a monstrous political creation based on terrorism, organized
crime and Nazi-like discrimination of everything that is not Albanian.

How long with Europe and the United States continue to tolerate Albanian
FASCISM in Kosovo?

When will the powerful in the great capitols of the world who are
pathetically "seriously concerned" for all who are victims of the
repressive regimes come to their senses and see that here UNDER THEIR
RULE and WITHIN THEIR SPHERE OF RESPONSIBILITY terrorists are carrying
out a NEW WAVE OF ETHNIC CLEANSING directly under the protection of the
international "humanitarian mission"?

The SNC is cognizant of the fact that Albanian terrorism cannot be
defeated overnight but the international community bears direct
responsibility for its development and continued existence during the
post-war period. The international community has CONCEALED and DIRECTLY
ASSISTED Albanian terrorism under the guise of a WAR OF LIBERATION; now,
incapable of keeping it under control, it has institutionalized it in
the form of the Kosovo Protection Corps. Albanian terrorists who
previously carried out executions, took over municipalities by force,
stole Serb and Romany property, set on fire and burned while KFOR was
putting up its tents, were declared overnight to be firefighters and
members of a civil protection corps even though they continue to carry
out illegal actions.

It is become clear that the ESSENCE of the failure of the international
community in Kosovo and Metohija lies in the fact that their entire
strategy for the resolution of the Kosovo problem is based on the idea
of the ALBANIAN VICTIM and SERBIAN EXTREMISM. True, Milosevic's
state-sponsored terrorism had to be confronted but definitely not by
turning the blind eye towards the ethnic Albanian terror against Serbs
and non-Albanian communities in Kosovo. This is the platform on which
the international missions of KFOR and UNMIK were built which in more
than a year in Kosovo are incapable of recognizing acts of classic
terrorism but continue to talk about the frustrated Albanians who are
driven each day to kill some child or woman or to set a church on fire
in order to calm their frustration. This philosophy is not only IMMORAL
but leads directly to an escalation in extremism among Albanians, who in
the end will turn on the international missions themselves, like Osma
bin Laden and Hamas turned on their former sponsors.

In the end, the Western governments want to forget about Kosovo and to
avoid direct confrontation with terrorism, knowing full well that
Western democracy still has no answer to terrorism in its own countries,
let alone in the brutal Balkans. Does this mean that the Serbs,
Romanies, Bosniacs and moderate Albanians are to be sacrificed to the
insatiable terror of the credo of a Greater Albania? We don't want to
believe that this is the case but it is blatantly apparent that the
Western governments ARE NOT prepared to call Albanian terrorism by its
true name ONLY because they would be forced to fight it, too, as they
are fighting against terrorism in its own countries.