Monday, January 10, 2005

South Serbian Albanians list demands in wake of killing

The three major Albanian political groups in South Serbia put their differences aside today to agree on a nine-point demand on a strategy to resolve tension in the region after a sixteen-year-old boy was shot by Serbia-Montenegro Army border guards on Friday.

The demands include a rapid diplomatic response, the stationing of international military and police troops in the Presevo Valley, the withdrawal of Serbian security forces from the region and the opening of new border crossings.

The president of the Presevo Municipal Assembly, Ragmi Mustafa, explained the demand for an international security presence or the deployment of multiethnic police.

“The committee has demanded an urgent diplomatic response in the Presevo Valley in order to prevent the escalation of conflicts.  Deploying international military and police forces in the valley, as a preventative measure, and then the withdrawal of all Serbia-Montenegro Army forces from the Macedonian and Kosovo borders and their replacement by international forces or multiethnic police taking would be well accepted by all Presevo residents,” said Mustafa.-

The demands agreed on by the Albanian leaders were read at a protest rally which brought about five thousand residents of the mainly Albanian region to Presevo’s central square today.  There were no violent incidents during the demonstration.

The Albanian political leaders also proposed that no Presevo officials meet officials from Belgrade today.  The Municipal Assembly agreed with the proposal.

Both the federal human and minority rights minister, Rasim Ljajic, and the head of the South Serbian Coordination Centre, Nebojsa Covic, had travelled to the region seeking urgent meetings today with local officials.

Ljajic and Covic today visited the border location where sixteen-year-old Dashim Hajrullah was shot dead and the army base in the village of Cakanovac, three kilometres from Presevo, where the Macedonian border patrols are based.

Despite the apparent peace in the region, the words of Albanian leader Riza Halimi from today’s sitting of the Presevo Assembly left a bitter impression: “If the integrity and sovereignty of a state is to be defended by murdering children, I don’t think such a state has any chance of surviving in this day and age.”

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