Tuesday, January 31, 2006
In what appeared to be a toughening of its stance, the contact group on the future of Kosovo also called on all parties to do everything possible to reach such an agreement by the end of the year.
"Ministers look to Belgrade to bear in mind that the settlement needs ... to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo," the contact group said in a statement issued after talks in London.
"The disastrous policies of the past lie at the heart of the current problems," read the statement, issued jointly with the European Union presidency, NATO's Secretary-General and United Nations representatives including the U.N. special status envoy.
"Today, Belgrade's leaders bear important responsibilities in shaping what happens now and in the future."
New talks on the future of Kosovo -- the first under a U.N. mediation process launched last November -- had been due to start on Jan. 25 but were postponed due to the death of Kosovan President Ibrahim Rugova four days earlier.
A U.N. mediator was quoted on Tuesday as saying they could now take place in late February.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians during a 2-year war with separatist guerrillas.
Ninety percent of Kosovo's population of two million people is made up of ethnic Albanians, most of whom demand nothing less than independence from Serbia.
Although Serbs oppose secession, Western diplomats say the final settlement on Kosovo will almost certainly meet the calls of the local population.
Source: Radio B92, Belgrade, in Serbian 0800 gmt 31 Jan 06
Ministers emphasise the importance they attach to a lasting Kosovo status settlement that promotes a multi-ethnic society. This would immeasurably enhance regional stability, as well as the European and Euro-Atlantic perspectives of Serbia, Kosovo and of the region as a whole. Ministers recall that the character of the Kosovo problem, shaped by the disintegration of Yugoslavia and consequent conflicts, ethnic cleansing and the events of 1999, and the extended period of international administration under UNSCR 1244, must be fully taken into account in settling Kosovo's status. UNSCR 1244 remains the framework for the ongoing status process, with the Security Council and Contact Group continuing to play key roles.
Ministers believe that all possible efforts should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006. To this end, Ministers strongly support the work of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. They call on Belgrade and Pristina to work constructively with him to find realistic solutions to the many difficult issues that need to be addressed. These should include, inter alia, freedom of movement, transparent and constructive links between local communities in Serbia and Kosovo, mechanisms for resolving the fate of missing persons and a specific package of measures for the protection of religious communities and sites. Arrangements for good relations between Belgrade and Pristina and within the region must also be part of a settlement.
Ministers stress that effective provisions for the decentralisation of government will be crucial to the status settlement. Decentralisation can ensure that minority communities remain a vital part of Kosovo's future and give impetus to the return of displaced persons who should be able to choose where they live in Kosovo. Ministers call on the parties to engage seriously on this issue.
The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, alongside all communities in Kosovo, must do much more to ensure that the UN Security Council-endorsed Standards are implemented. Their commitment is crucial to the prospects for a sustainable status settlement that enables all communities to live and thrive in safety. Ministers also call on Kosovo's Serbs and other minority communities to seize the opportunity of the status process to ensure their concerns are fully addressed.
The Contact Group Guiding Principles of November 2005 make clear that there should be: no return of Kosovo to the pre-1999 situation, no partition of Kosovo, and no union of Kosovo with any or part of another country. Ministers re-state the international community's willingness to establish, for an interim period after a settlement, appropriate international civilian and military structures to help ensure compliance with the settlement's provisions. Day-to-day governance , which must be conducted on a multi-ethnic basis, should rest with Kosovo's duly-elected representatives. Ministers recall NATO's continuing commitment to maintain a safe and secure environment through KFOR.
Ministers look to Belgrade to bear in mind that the settlement needs, inter alia, to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo. The disastrous policies of the past lie at the heart of the current problems. Today, Belgrade's leaders bear important responsibilities in shaping what happens now and in the future. The Contact Group, the EU and NATO stand ready to support Serbian democratic forces in taking this opportunity to move Serbia forward. Ministers welcome the arrest of Jovo Djogo but reiterate that the leadership must fulfil their repeated pledges to co-operate fully with ICTY, notably in respect of Mladic and Karadzic. Ministers equally urge Pristina to recognise that a multi-ethnic settlement is the only workable option and that the more the vital interests of minorities are addressed the quicker a broadly acceptable agreement can be reached. Ministers warn those seeking to use violence that they will undermine their own cause.
Lastly, Ministers emphasise that a negotiated settlement is the best way forward. It will help to create the circumstances in which a settlement can be made to work for the benefit of all. Constructive engagement by the parties will also pave the way for a European and Euro-Atlantic future. Ministers urge leaders in Serbia and Kosovo to show the political courage and vision necessary to come forward with realistic and far-sighted proposals for the future of both Kosovo and Serbia. They have asked the Status Envoy and the SRSG to keep them updated on progress and undertake to return to the issue at their request or if the situation warrants.
Monday, January 30, 2006
MOSCOW. Jan 30 (Interfax) - President Vladimir Putin has said that the plan for settling the final status of Kosovo should be universal.
At a Monday meeting with Cabinet members he asked Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to made Russia's opinion known to all members of the contact group for Kosovo that will be meeting later this week in London.
"It is a crucial issue for us not only from the viewpoint of observing principles of international law, but the practical interests of former Soviet republics," Putin said.
"All options that the contact group will work out should be universal," he said.
"This is extremely important for the former Soviet Union because not all conflicts here have been settled. We cannot take a road on which some rules will apply in one case and others in another. One should remember that solutions should be universal," he said.
Fatmir Sejdiu is considered to be a moderate within the party and an acceptable figure from the opposition. He is a realist and a lot less idealistic than the late President, which signifies a change in direction the largest party in Kosovo, will take. Major reforms within the party will be expected if Sejdiu gets the position.
Sejdiu is a doctor of History and a professor at the Law Faculty at the University of Prishtina. He comes from the Northeast city of Podujeva(Besjana). (source: Balkan Update)
Sunday, January 29, 2006
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in response to the proposal of the Ministry of Interior, the secretariat of the government's council for dissemination of information and the cabinet authorized the Ministry of Information to proceed and temporarily ink such an agreement.
The move is in accordance with article 2 of Iran's by-law on drawing up and signing international contracts approved in 1992, reports IRNA.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
TENS of thousands of ethnic Albanians threw flowers and wept as Ibrahim Rugova's flag-draped coffin made its way to his final resting place yesterday.
The Kosovo president who embodied ethnic Albanians' quest for an independent state was laid to rest in a white marble tomb, his name engraved in gold.
Mr Rugova's family, colleagues and dignitaries gathered at the grave, some bowing, others stroking the plaque or leaning to kiss it as they paid their last respects. Some cried, others hugged each other. The president's wife, Fana, clutched the flag that draped the coffin. A 21-gun salute was fired.
Mr Rugova died on Saturday of lung cancer at the age of 61 after 16 years as the leader of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who want independence from Serbia.
"You fulfilled your dream, you laid the foundation for Kosovo to become a free and independent state," the head of the province's parliament, Nexhat Daci, said.
With no-one in line to take over, Kosovo's political scene has been thrown into disarray as the province prepares for talks on its final status. The talks have been postponed.
"It is a cruel irony of history that he left at the moment he was most needed, the very moment he was expected to provide leadership in helping to settle the future status of Kosovo," Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, told the crowd.
Gani Shahini, 77, from the town of Shtimje, said Mr Rugova's death was "a great loss in these moments when we need him. He has built our path and now we need to finish what he has started."
Thousands of people lined the streets of Pristina as the coffin was driven to the tomb overlooking the capital at the Martyrs' Cemetery, initially dedicated to the victims of the Second World War.
It has since become a graveyard for members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel force that fought Serb troops in Kosovo's 1998-9 war.
Mr Rugova's grave is near his official residence, where he met western leaders and insisted they recognise the tiny province of two million as a state.
His peaceful way of confronting repression came to be seen as a rarity in the Balkans and earned him the nickname "Kosovo's Gandhi".
FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2006
PRISTINA, Kosovo: Kosovo's Albanian majority gathered by the tens of thousands Thursday to bid a last farewell to their late president, Ibrahim Rugova, in a ceremony that had all the trappings of a state funeral.
For 16 years Rugova, a pacifist who struggled to gain the province's independence from Serbia, had been Kosovo's paramount leader. He died at age 61 of lung cancer Saturday, just days before talks were to open, under United Nations auspices, that are widely expected to result in a limited form of independence for Kosovo.
In death, his people gave him every honor that a state would lavish upon a president.
The city, Kosovo's regional capital, was brought to a halt for six hours for a ceremony that was attended by four presidents and representatives from more than 40 countries. Shops and schools were closed as the Albanian-dominated regional government had declared a national holiday.
Kosovo is officially a part of Serbia but has been administered by the United Nations since June 1999, when Serb security forces accused of committing atrocities against Albanians were forced to leave the province. Their departure was preceded by a NATO bombing campaign against the Serbs.
On Thursday, armed guards - recruited from the ranks of a now dispersed guerrilla army that fought Serbian security forces from 1997 to 1999 - escorted the funeral cortege. Rugova's flag-draped coffin was transported through the streets, with hundreds of Kosovo Albanian police lining the procession route.
There was little sign of the approximately 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers who are stationed in Kosovo and who usually patrol the capital.
Instead Kosovo's Protection Corps, which the UN defines as a civil disaster emergency response unit but Albanians widely view as the province's fledgling defense force, led the cortege.
"He was the president of our state," said 80-year-old Zymer Kastrati, who had traveled by bus with 10 members of his extended family from Peja in eastern Kosovo.
Rugova twice won the presidency of Kosovo's regional government, following parliamentary elections in 2001 and 2004.
Like Kastrati, many Albanians traveled from throughout Kosovo in freezing temperatures to attend the ceremony, which followed four-and-a-half days of official mourning. Many were members of the Democratic League of Kosovo, the movement that Rugova had helped to found in the late 1980s as a counterweight to the rise of Serbian nationalism.
Members of the Kosovo's extensive diaspora also had flown in for the ceremony, some coming from as far away as Australia and the United States.
"He was a very patient and peaceful man, ideal qualities since we Kosovars are a hot-blooded people," said Gresa Rexhepi, a 16-year-old high school student from Pristina. "I'm sure his goal will be achieved very soon."
Notably absent were members of Kosovo's Serb community, as well as members of the Serbian government from Belgrade.
President Boris Tadic of Serbia had asked to attend the funeral, but his request was rejected by Rugova's office as a reassertion of Serbia's claim to the province.
The president's office had requested that Tadic be allowed to go to "Kosovo, which is a part of Serbia's territorial integrity, and pay his respects to the political representative of the Albanian people." After the request was rejected, all but two of Kosovo's Serb representatives declined to attend the funeral.
Dignitaries paid tribute to Rugova before he was laid to rest at a memorial site for former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The head of the UN mission in the province, Soren Jessen-Petersen, said Rugova had "remained dedicated exclusively to peaceful means, meeting violence with vision at a time and in a region where so many set their eyes upon the past."
Jessen-Petersen also suggested that Rugova's desire for Kosovo's independence may not be far from becoming a reality.
"President Rugova has left a void behind him but he has also left a vision to guide Kosovo forward," Jessen-Petersen said.
"It is a vision whose fulfillment he did not live to see, but whose realization will be achieved through the unity and commitment of those who follow him."
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
President Announces Secretary Jackson to Lead U.S. Delegation to Attend Funeral of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova
President George W. Bush today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Pristina, Kosovo to attend the Funeral of His Excellency Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo, on January 26, 2006.
The Honorable Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation are:
The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg, Chief of Mission, Kosovo
The Honorable Frank Wisner, Ambassador, Special Representative of the Secretary of State to the Kosovo Status Talks
According to Haziri, Pristina Airport has considered the possibility of diverting some of the commercial and military flights to Gjakovë/_akovica or Skopje respectively, says Koha Ditore.
The paper adds that the flux of citizens coming for the burial ceremony of former President Rugova is still increasing.
Lajm says that Gjakovë/_akovica and Skopje Airport are getting ready to receive flights
Dailies also report that the Kosovo Protection Corps were the guards of honor. Despite very cold weather, apart from institutional leaders, local and international, thousands of people from all Albanian territories paid tribute to the President, writes Koha Ditore.
Rugova - often called the Gandhi of the Balkans, in an allusion to the Indian leader's epic campaign for independence - died from lung cancer. He leaves a vacuum in the faction-ridden political scene at a crucial time. The province is embarking on the delicate process of negotiating a solution that its ethnic Albanian majority hopes will lead to full independence.
Though diagnosed with cancer last September, Rugova continued to lead the negotiating team for what he hoped would be the final countdown with Serbia. He met regularly with western politicians, insisting on recognition of the province's independence even as he struggled at times to catch his breath.
With his trademark scarf wrapped around his neck, Rugova had cult status among many ethnic Albanians. He was the living symbol of their demand for independence from Serbia since the early 1990s, when he led the nonviolent fight against Serbian repression under Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
It will be difficult for any other Kosovo politician to fill his shoes. Rugova won international respect through the peaceful nature of his opposition to Serb dominance, in contrast to other Kosovo Albanians now in positions of leadership, who were part of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army that fought Serb troops in the 1998-99 war. While Serb forces are considered the main perpetrators of atrocities, several KLA leaders face trial by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, including former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, an ex-rebel commander.
Rugova's path to prominence started in the late 1980s after he confronted Serb writers in Belgrade and urged equal time, chances and resources for the province and its ethnic Albanian majority.
Cracks were appearing in the old Yugoslavia and its ideal of ethnic co-existence, with nationalists of all ethnic groups starting to make their voices heard. The first shots of the wars that would start the final unravelling of the southern Slav federation would soon be fired.
He was elected head of the Kosovo Writers'Association in 1988, which became the main front of non-violent opposition to Serb rule. As Milosevic's grip on the province tightened, the Sorbonne-educated linguist, writer and professor of Albanian literature was chosen to lead the Democratic League of Kosovo. That put him at the helm of the largest movement espousing the dream of independence. He soon was the front man for ethnic Albanian aspirations of a breakwith Serbia.
Rugova wanted to be perceived as a modest leader. Still, his lifestyle drew criticism. He lived in a sprawling villa in one of Pristina's affluent neighbourhoods. For years he did not walk the streets of the capital, travelling instead in bulletproof cars and surrounded by dozens of bodyguards. Little was known of the process of decision-making within the party.
Rugova had many enemies.
He was despised by Serbs who want Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, and ethnic Albanian radicals - particularly former rebel fighters - held deep grudges against him for failing to support the rebel KLA.
Bombs were hurled at his residence and he escaped an apparent assassination attempt in March 2005 when a remotecontrolled bomb damaged his car but left him unscathed.
His popularity was shaken in 1998 when ethnic Albanians began an armed rebellion against Serb forces, triggering two years of fighting which left some 10,000 people dead. The war stopped when Nato air strikes forced Serbia to relinquish control over the province.
His appearance alongside Milosevic, urging an end to the bombing at the height of the conflict, during which ethnic cleansing forced about one million Albanians from their homes, dealt a huge blow to his image. His political opponents - mainly rebel leaders - accused him of treason. He stayed in Italy during the Nato bombing and did not return until the warwas over, leading to accusations of cowardice. Rugova later said Serb security forces had forced him to appear in public and denounce the Nato bombing campaign or face dire "consequences".
But those setbacks dented rather than destroyed his largerthan-life status. He shot back into the political scene after the end of the war, winning all the elections he contested.
Turning the tables on Milosevic three years after their joint television appearance, he testified against him at the UN war crimes tribunal in May 2002.
Beyond his commitment to Kosovo's independence, foreign visitors remembered the softspoken Rugova for his shy smile - and his love of minerals. He frequently presented heads of state and other dignitaries with a sparkling chunk with quartz orpyrite, mined in Kosovo and wrapped in a napkin with the province's presidential seal. Diplomats jokingly measured their popularity through the size of the rocks he gave them.
Though born a Muslim, Rugova showed great admiration for the Roman Catholic Church: a large photograph of him with late Pope John Paul II occupied pride of place on his wall. Rugova met the Pope five times and frequently asked for his blessings and prayers.
In August 2005, he laid the foundation stone for the only cathedral in Kosovo's capital that will bear the name of Mother Teresa, the beatified Albanian nun. It would be one of his last public appearances - and a controversial one in mostly Muslim Kosovo.
"(President Boris) Tadic is not welcome at the funeral, especially after his last comments," a senior government official told Reuters.
Tadic made the request on Monday, saying it would only be proper for the Serbian president to go to Kosovo, "which is part of Serbia's territorial integrity, and pay his respects to the political representative of the Albanian people".
The statement touched a nerve in Kosovo, where thousands of Albanians queued for a second day in temperatures as low as minus 15 Celsius (5 Fahrenheit) for a glimpse of Rugova's flag-draped coffin. The funeral will be held on Thursday.
Serbia has not had formal control over its southern province since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas.
Under U.N. control ever since, the 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority is pushing for independence in direct negotiations that were due to begin this week. They were postponed until February after Rugova died of lung cancer on Saturday aged 61.
Newspaper Kosova Sot described Tadic's statement as a provocation. "Serbia's president has not chosen the right moment to express the ambitions of his state towards Kosovo."
Another newspaper, Zeri, quoted a government source as saying no official from Belgrade would be welcome at the funeral.
Tadic's attendance would pose a security headache for the NATO-led peace force. During his first and only visit last year Tadic's convoy was stoned and pelted with eggs in Albanian areas.
Serbia says independence for Kosovo, considered by many Serbs as the cradle of their nation, is out of the question.
But the Albanian majority rejects any return to Serb rule after years of discrimination and often violent repression.
A father-figure to many Kosovo Albanians, Rugova led a decade of passive resistance to Serb domination in the 1990s, creating an underground system of schools and healthcare.
His tactics were eclipsed by the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998-99, but he regained the political ascendancy after the war and was twice elected president.
His death left a political vacuum in Kosovo. Diplomats fear a messy power struggle within his fractious party could delay U.N.-led talks which are seen to be leading to independence.
Rugova died from lung cancer on Saturday at age 61.
In a telegram, the pope extended his "heartfelt condolences for the loss that has hit the Kosovo people and administration, while assuring spiritual closeness in this hour of test."
The pope praised Rugova for "the solid civic virtues that inspired his life and the generous service" to his fellow citizens, said the telegram that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, sent on behalf of the pontiff.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Letter to President Rugova's Family and the People of Kosovo from the President of the United States
I was deeply saddened by the news of President Ibrahim Rugova's death. For many years, President Rugova led the campaign for peace and democracy in Kosovo, and he earned the world's respect for his principled stand against violence.
The United States has lost a true friend. Throughout years of conflict, Ibrahim Rugova was the voice of reason and moderation that helped Kosovo's people lay the groundwork for a peaceful future. The loss of that voice at this decisive time for Kosovo is particularly tragic. Let me assure you that the United States remains committed to working with all the people of Kosovo to build a future that is stable, democratic and prosperous.
On behalf of the people of the United States , Laura and I extend our condolences to President Rugova's family and to all the people of Kosovo.
George W. Bush
Sunday, January 22, 2006
In Kosovo itself, newspapers carry large front-page pictures of their 61-year-old leader who died from lung cancer on Saturday, and headlines reflect their deep sorrow.
The close affinity of Albania with the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo is reflected in the press there, with headlines echoing their Kosovo counterparts and eulogising the dead president.
In Serbia, which eventually lost control over Kosovo after years of conflict with the ethnic Albanians, newspapers are either critical of Rugova and his people or are more concerned with pragmatic issues like who will be his successor and the move towards independence.
Kosovo's Bota Sot carries a headline: "President Rugova is no more, the Albanian nation is orphaned."
Koha Ditore hails "Ibrahim Rugova - an icon of independence". Another headline proclaims "Kosovo lost its President in the final run-up to Independence".
Express believes the past years have proved to be "Rugova's Epoch". It bids farewell with the headline, "Goodbye Marathon-runner". Lajm calls him simply "The statesman".
In Albania, Ballkan hails Rugova as the "Albanian icon who created an independent Kosovo".
A commentator in the same paper calls him "the last of the Renaissance figures".
Another independent Albanian daily, Gazeta 55, carries the headline: "Rugova was God's gift for Albanians."
Other headlines include: "Rugova, embodiment of noble aspirations for independence" and "Death of a symbol".
The renowned Albanian writer Ismail Kadare is quoted as designating Rugova "one of the leaders of the entire Albanian people".
Two other papers lament that he failed to live to see Kosovo's full independence. "Death separates President of Kosovo Rugova from independence," says Sunday's Albania .
"Independence without Rugova," runs a headline in Gazeta Shqiptare.
In Serbia, the Belgrade daily Glas javnosti carries the headline: "War starts between Albanians".
"The last representative of the moderate Albanian wing has gone. His party has been torn apart by a war involving three factions," says a commentary in the paper.
"The Balkan Ghandi or Kosovo Havel, as he was called by the foreign media, had not been prominent in the attempts to protect the Serbs after the arrival of the UN administration," it concludes.
Vecernje novosti asks "Who will Succeed Rugova". "The richest Albanian, Bexhet Pacoli who is based in Switzerland, has already said that he wants to take over at the helm and take the Kosovo ship to the port of independence."
The Belgrade daily Politika notes that the "Kosovo talks, scheduled to start on 25 January, could be postponed because of the death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova".
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/4636646.stm
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Secretary of state pledges United States will keep helping Kosovo build democracy
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed her condolences on the death of President Ibrahim Rugova of Kosovo, saying the people of Kosovo have lost a great leader, and the United States a great friend.
Rugova died of lung cancer at his Pristina home on January 21.
In her statement issued later the same day, Rice pledged that the United States would continue to work with the people of Kosovo to build a democratic society as the nation enters "a political process to determine its future."
Direct negotiations were to have started January 25 to decide whether Kosovo, with its ethnic Albanian majority, would win independence or remain part of Serbia. (See related article.)
The Kosovo province of Serbia-Montenegro has been administered by the United Nations since NATO’s 1999 air war drove out Yugoslav Serb forces following widespread human-rights abuses. On October 24, 2005, the U.N. Security Council endorsed final-status talks, which could lead either to independence or greater autonomy for Kosovo, according to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
With Rugova’s funeral now scheduled for January 25, the Reuters news agency quoted United Nations special envoy Martti Ahtisaari as saying those talks in Vienna, Austria, would be rescheduled for early February.
Following is the State Department text of Rice’s statement:STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Death of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova
I wish to express my condolences to the people of Kosovo upon the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. President Rugova led his people through challenging times and earned the world's respect for his advocacy of democracy and peace. Even while battling his final illness, President Rugova worked to bring unity to Kosovo's leaders and hope to its people. The United States has lost a great friend today. The people of Kosovo have lost a great leader.
President Rugova's death comes just as Kosovo enters a political process to determine its future. Despite the loss of his leadership, this process will go on. The United States will continue to work with all the people of Kosovo to build a society based upon the principles of democracy, human rights and inter-ethnic tolerance that President Rugova valued so deeply.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
"Mr. Rugova passed away at a crucial moment of final preparations for the talks on Kosovo's future status. The secretary general trusts in the maturity of Kosovo's institutions and believes that the loss of Kosovo's president will not disrupt this process," said a statement issued by Annan's spokesman here.
"The secretary general calls upon the Kosovo political leaders to maintain their unity and continue extending their full cooperation to the secretary general's special envoy, Mr Martti Ahtisaari, and his special representative, Mr Soren Jessen-Petersen," it said.
The statement said Annan "shares the grief of the people of Kosovo," and it praised Rugova, who died Saturday at the age of 61 from lung cancer, as a true leader who advocated a peaceful solution for Kosovo.
Rugova's disappearance from the political scene comes at a crucial time for disputed Kosovo's Albanian majority, as it prepares for crucial talks on the future status of the UN-run Serbian territory.
The talks, planned for next week, were postponed following Rugova's death on Saturday.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since June 1999, when the alliance's airstrikes led Serbian forces under Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from the province, where they had been cracking down on separatist guerrillas.
While the Albanians, representing 90 percent of the population, are demanding independence, Belgrade is only offering broad autonomy for Kosovo, which has deep cultural and historical significance for the Serbs.
Joint statement by SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen, Assembly Speaker Nexhat Daci, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi, PDK leader Hashim Thaci, ORA leader
“We were all terribly saddened to hear the news that the President passed away this morning. Today, we mourn President Rugova, and we want to express our condolences to his family. Together with the people of Kosovo we are united in our grief and sorrow. Together with the people we are united in our determination to see Kosovo continue on its path towards a peaceful and prosperous future.”
President Rugova will be remembered as a man committed to the idea of a fully democratic, peaceful and multi-ethnic Kosovo. Mr. Rugova’s opposition to violence, including during the difficult years that deset the former Yugoslavia, was both brave and remarkable.
Until the very end, he served the people of Kosovo with conviction. He played a key role in helping Kosovo down the long and often painful road towards reconciliation, lasting peace and stability. I am confident that his example will continue to guide the people of Kosovo at this important time, and into the future.
Source : NATO
Kosovo has lost a historic leader at this crucial time, as the negotiations on Kosovo's status have entered an important phase. He was the symbol of the aspirations of Kosovo 's people and devoted his life to promoting the rights of the people of Kosovo through peaceful means.
I was very impressed by his vision for the future, his determination to work for a better Kosovo, and his leadership of the negotiation team. I have fond memories of our meeting in Pristina during my first trip to Kosovo after being appointed Special Envoy.
I expect the momentum generated by President Rugova to be sustained, and
that Kosovo's political leaders assume the responsibility to remain unified and actively support our common efforts to realize Kosovo's status.
I reiterate my commitment to leading the status process to culminate in a political settlement that determines the future status of Kosovo."
Nevertheless the son prospered, going on to study linguistics at the Sorbonne in Paris, before becoming a writer and professor of Albanian literature.
He boasts a passion for poetry, mineral rock samples and Sar mountain dogs from the southern Kosovo border area. Rarely seen without a trademark silk scarf, he cuts a distinctive figure.
He was drawn into politics in 1989 after being elected as head of the Kosovo Writers' Union, which became a breeding ground for opposition to the Serbian authorities.
This activism hardened after Belgrade stripped Kosovo of its autonomy later that year, and led to the establishment of Mr Rugova's LDK.
Throughout the 1990s Mr Rugova was seen as the moderate, intellectual face of Albanian opposition to Slobodan Milosevic's Belgrade regime.
His ambivalent attitude and eventual political support for the Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) went largely unquestioned as support grew in the West for military action against Serbia's brutal rule in Kosovo.
But his involuntary appearance alongside Mr Milosevic at the height of the conflict virtually ruined his reputation in Kosovo. Many felt the man who for years had called for Western intervention was now urging Nato to stop the bombing.
Most Albanians were furious, with some accusing him of treason. When the Serb authorities allowed him out of house arrest during the conflict Mr Rugova left the Balkans for Italy, his political career apparently over.
Back in charge
But the man sometimes known as "the Gandhi of the Balkans" returned home and used his experience and pedigree as a proponent of Kosovan nationalism to win the presidency in 2002.
Long before the KLA arrived on the scene in the mid 1990s, Mr Rugova led the parallel government which the Albanians declared at the start of Mr. Milosevic's brutal crackdown.
The LDK was as much a party as a popular social movement. He built the loyalty and trust of the people, which lasted the course.
Ibrahim Rugova campaigned on a pledge to push ahead with demands for full independence from Serbia; members of Kosovo's legislative assembly believed him and voted him into office.
Just a day after the vote, Mr Rugova declared that his first priority as the leader of the victorious party would be to press as fast as possible for sovereignty, and then attend to the economic reconstruction of a province still shattered by war.
He duelled with Mr Milosevic, his old enemy, when called to the stand during the former Yugoslav president's war crimes trial in The Hague.
His home and car have been attacked by bombers, although he has escaped unharmed from each assault.
Zagreb, 21 January: The death of President Ibrahim Rugova has deprived Kosovo and Kosovo Albanians of a political leader whose political wisdom and composure would certainly be necessary in a key period which Kosovo is entering, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic has said, expressing his condolence at the death of the 61-year-old president.
I hope and believe that legitimate representatives of Kosovo Albanians will be able to follow the course of action on which Rugova embarked, strongly promoting rights of the Albanian population in Kosovo and at the same time avoiding any extremism that might undermine efforts aimed at the accomplishment of their efforts, Mesic said in a statement which his office released on Saturday [21 January] afternoon.
"Ibrahim Rugova will be remembered not only as a regional politician but also as an unavoidable protagonist in events which took place in the area of the former Yugoslavia in the years after its disintegration. He will be also remembered as a man on whom the international community had every reason to rely while seeking an acceptable solution to the Kosovo issue," Mesic said.
Rugova died in his residence in Pristina on Saturday. Several months ago, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"The loss of President Rugova comes at a particularly challenging time," Solana said in a statement.
"His wisdom and authority will be greatly missed. At this difficult moment I call on all leaders of Kosovo to show unity and responsibility," he added.
Rugova died Saturday of lung cancer, aged 61, only days ahead of the start of talks Wednesday in Vienna on the final status of the province.
The leadership of the charismatic Kosovo leader was considered crucial for the UN-mediated negotiations.
"With him Kosovo has lost a historic leader who devoted his life to protecting and promoting the rights of the people of Kosovo," Solana said.
"President Rugova was a man of peace, firm in the face of oppression, but deeply committed to the ideals of non-violence," he added.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, also paid tribute to Rugova, saying in a statement that it "appreciated his work for a peaceful solution to the problems of Kosovo, and encourages all leaders to continue to work in this spirit."
“Today, France, which supported Kosovo in the 1990s, expresses its sorrow and condolences over the historical role and the political courage, which inspired Rugova to defend the Kosovo people’s democratic rights for peace in the region”, the French President says in a telegram to Kosovo Parliament Speaker Nexhat Daci.
According to Calmy-Rey, around 10 percent of Kosovo’s population lives in Switzerland and ‘as long as status remains undefined, property and legal problems cannot be solved. As long as there is no legal authority or order, no one will want to invest in Kosovo.’
Further Calmy-Rey says that Kosovo, with its current status, cannot afford to borrow money, because it cannot offer guarantees that the money would be returned. People remain unemployed, half of Kosovo youth is so, she said.
She also said that Switzerland stated before the UNSC, that it upholds the idea of immediate status talks on Kosovo, and that putting Kosovo under the sovereignty of Serbia was unimaginable and unwanted.
Speaking on minorities, Calmy-Rey said that her country expects that the majority would respect the rights of Serbs and other communities and that standards should be constantly implemented without any timeframe. Swiss prefers the formula ‘Standards beyond status’ to ‘Standards before status’, ascertained Calmy-Rey.
'I want to express my deep sympathy and condolences to all the people of Kosovo on the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.
'President Rugova was one of the most popular figures in Kosovo. He created an international awareness of, and concern for, the plight of the Kosovo people. In so doing, he always pursued his goals through peaceful means.
'His death comes as a process to determine Kosovo's future status has just begun. This is something that President Rugova long wanted and argued hard for. All the people of Kosovo should continue to work for a stable and multi-ethnic society where all people, regardless of ethnic background, race or religion, are free to live in peace and security. This would be a fitting legacy for President Rugova.'
Hua Jiag said face-to-face talks planned for Wednesday in Vienna were postponed "due to the mourning period." The negotiations between Serbs and ethnic Albanians aim to determine whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro.
“This is a moment of profound sorrow for Kosovo and I share your sadness and grief.
I wish first of all to extend my heartfelt condolences, in my own name and on behalf of all of UNMIK, to President Rugova’s family – may you find strength and comfort in each other and in your faith to see you through this very painful moment.
I also want to extend my condolences to the people of Kosovo and the PISG. President Rugova’s unwavering belief in his vision for Kosovo, which he pursued so determinedly throughout his life, earned him the respect of not only the people of Kosovo but also the wider international community.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting the President very frequently. I will always remember him as a wise, thoughtful, committed and warm person.
It is particularly tragic that President Rugova should leave us at this very decisive moment for the future of Kosovo.
The best tribute we can pay to President Rugova and his legacy is to stay united during the coming months.
Indeed, this is the moment for all the people and political leaders of Kosovo to pull together and show the maturity and wisdom that would serve Kosovo well now and in the future.
President Rugova was a unifying force, a talented and highly-committed leader who continued to work tirelessly for Kosovo until his last days.
He leaves behind a legacy of determination and perseverance, and dialogue.
He will always have a unique place in the history of Kosovo.”
Mr Rugova, 61, regarded as a moderate ethnic Albanian, came to prominence in the 1990s as leader of the ethnic Albanian resistance against Serbia.
Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999 when a Nato bombing campaign stopped Serb forces expelling ethnic Albanians during a separatist war.
Rugova's death will complicate talks on the future of Kosovo, observers say.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Kosovo Albanians light candles in the capital Pristina in memory of Slovak soldiers who served in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo on Friday, Jan. 20, 2006. A Slovak military plane crashed into a mountain in eastern Hungary on Thursday night, killing 42 people, mostly peacekeepers returning from the NATO mission in Kosovo. Around 100 Slovak are based in the province as part of the NATO-led peace force. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Senior political and military leaders in Kosovo expressed condolences Friday to Bratislava over the loss of Slovak peacekeepers in an airplane crash in Hungary.
Bajram Kosumi, the prime minister of Kosovo where the peacekeepers were serving, said his government and people were "deeply sorry for the tragic death of Slovakian soldiers while they were returning to their families from their honourable mission in building peace in Kosovo".
"We will honor the memory of the lost soldiers and their professionalism by continuing to operate with the same vigour and enthusiasm they displayed," said Italian General Giuseppe Valotto, commander of NATO-led forces in Kosovo (KFOR).
KFOR has about 17,000 troops from 35 nations.
The soldiers are in charge of establishing and maintaining a secure environment in the province, including public safety and aiding the UN mission in Kosovo.
Kosovo is technically part of Serbia but has been a UN protectorate since NATO intervened in 1999 to end clashes between Serbian forces and separatist guerrillas.
Since their mission started, more than 110 international peacekeepers have lost their lives in Kosovo in various accidents.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Jan 19th 2006
IF YOU were to assess the future of Kosovo only from the local media, you might think that megaphone diplomacy was all that was happening. Kosovo will be Serbian forever, trumpet Serbia's leaders. The province's Albanian majority retort that nothing less than full independence will do for Kosovo's 2m people, more than 90% of whom are ethnic Albanians. It seems an impasse.
Yet behind the megaphones, tough negotiation has already taken place—albeit not between Serbs and Albanians. Since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, Serbia's southern province has been under the jurisdiction of the UN, which last November appointed Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, to start talks on Kosovo's future status. The Serbs and Kosovo Albanians have assembled negotiating teams that are due to meet for the first time next week in Vienna.
But much of the hard bargaining has already happened, among interested outside powers: Britain, France, America and Russia. Given these countries' foreign-policy differences, the degree of consensus on Kosovo is surprising. Even Russian diplomats, who insist publicly that they will back the Serbs, say the opposite in private. The four powers all agree that Kosovo should have “conditional independence”, code for full independence after a transitional period, but with certain safeguards for Kosovo's remaining Serbs.
The only dispute is over tactics. At present, all are pretending that the future of Kosovo is to be settled in Mr Ahtisaari's talks. But in private it is accepted that, since the two sides will never agree, the decisions will have to be taken for them. British diplomats argue that the sooner an explicit guarantee is given to the Kosovo Albanians that independence in some form is coming, the greater the concessions they will be ready to make to Kosovo's 100,000-odd remaining Serbs. The French are more cautious, fearing that going public too soon may mean that the Serbs refuse to engage in any talks at all.
If the outcome is already agreed, what is the point of Mr Ahtisaari's negotiations? The answer, in the words of one diplomat, is that they “are not about the status of Kosovo...[but about] negotiating the status of the Serbs in Kosovo.” The Serbian government may still insist that Kosovo belongs to Serbia under international law, but such a position needs outside backing if it is to be credible. Realising that Russia's support is uncertain, the Serbs appealed last month to France. The French replied that they would support Serbia's legitimate interests, but only if they were realistic—and keeping Kosovo was not that.
A disappointed Boris Tadic, Serbia's president, is now preparing a fallback position. If Kosovo's independence cannot be prevented, he is putting out feelers to see if Serbia can, at least, stop the Kosovo Albanians having their own army and, for the foreseeable future, a separate seat at the UN. The Serbs give warning that, if Kosovo is lost completely, radical nationalists may come to power. A recent poll showed support for the nationalists holding up better than for other parties.
Yet this threat may not be that worrying, either. What would happen if the nationalists were to take control? Not much, shrugs one diplomat. Serbia's choice is, he says, “Belarus or Brussels”—isolation or Europe. As with Hobson's choice, it is really no choice at all.
The former Bosnian Serb wartime general has been on the run since 1995. He has been charged with genocide and other crimes related to the Bosnian war.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said suspending negotiations was an option if Belgrade did not co-operate.
The UN's chief war crimes prosecutor said Gen Mladic was hiding in Serbia.
Carla del Ponte accused elements in the Serbian army of sheltering him.
"Mladic is in Serbia, and as you know, Mladic is protected with power of the army," she said after a meeting with Mr Rehn.
She had urged Belgrade to hand over Gen Mladic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 2005.
The former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, also tops the list of suspects most wanted by the tribunal.
Mr Rehn warned it would be extremely difficult for the EU to conclude an association agreement with Belgrade unless Gen Mladic and other wanted war crimes suspects were handed over.
An association agreement would be the first step on the road to EU membership for Serbia.
"I hope Belgrade takes this message very seriously and starts acting accordingly," Mr Rehn said.
"The suspension of negotiations is certainly one alternative... Serbia has to choose now between the nationalist past and a European future. I hope they choose the European future."
Ms del Ponte said she wanted to put Gen Mladic in the dock in July, along with the other suspects indicted for the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica - the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
The Serbia-Montenegro Defence Minister, Zoran Stankovic, insisted that Belgrade was still looking for Gen Mladic, the Associated Press reported.
He said he had recently met Gen Mladic's wife and son.
"The operation to catch Mladic is under way... All available army personnel are engaged in this," he said.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/4629174.stm
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
18 January 2006
(Copyright (c) 2006, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
It's decision-time in the Western Balkans. As the final status of Kosovo will be determined over the coming months, Serbia and Montenegro are approaching a formal divorce once the smaller of the remaining Yugoslav republics holds a referendum on independence in April.
International involvement is needed to help these three quasi-states resolve all this peacefully and successfully. Attempts to prevent democratic choices for national self-determination would exacerbate conflicts in the years ahead. The alternative to establishing legitimate states is growing nationalist resentments that will be increasingly directed against the EU, NATO and others on the ground in the Balkans.
Although the status of Kosovo took center stage last year with the appointment of former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari as the UN mediator, it is tempting but wrong to link this issue to Montenegro, the mountainous coastal republic of less than a million people, where no international mediation is necessary. Unlike Kosovo, Montenegro was a federal republic in the defunct Yugoslavia with the same right to independence as all countries emerging from this failed state, including Slovenia, now an EU and NATO member.
Montenegro postponed its independence vote three years ago after EU representatives pressured the government in Podgorica to temporarily sacrifice the republic's national aspirations in the hope of pacifying Serbia. But the Serbia-Montenegro Union has proved to be a dysfunctional and expensive arrangement that has worsened relations between the two capitals and slowed down their reform programs.
Some EU diplomats calculate that pressing Montenegro to annul its planned referendum on statehood will compensate Serbia for the loss of Kosovo. But manipulating the destiny of Montenegro will not assuage regional nationalisms. It is likely to further embolden radicals in Serbia and distract attention from the country's internal reforms. It will also generate resentment among the pro-European and pro-American portion of the Montenegrin population that supports independence. Although a narrow majority is in favor of statehood, opinion polls show this to be the most educated, reformist and entrepreneurial part of the population that sees Montenegro's future in the EU and NATO.
Montenegro's governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, includes post-communist reformers, social democrats and representatives of the Albanian minority who seek to build a multi-ethnic state based on civic principles rather than ethno-national identity. However, the reform process has been stalled because of Montenegro's isolation from Western institutions and its continuing links with an even less reformed Serbia. Additionally, Belgrade has sought to discredit the independence movement by charging the Montenegrin authorities with criminal connections.
During the Milosevic era, Podgorica kept itself afloat by bypassing international sanctions on ex-Yugoslavia and building its own state institutions in opposition to Milosevic. Montenegro's independence will help to make the government more transparent and its aspirations to join the EU will enable it to meet the required international standards for good governance.
Montenegro's plan to hold a democratic referendum was legitimized by the EU when it established the current State Union. The arrangement stipulated that either republic had the right to hold an independence referendum after three years, and this period expires in February. The EU troika also acknowledged Montenegro's right to a plebiscite once the recommendations of the Venice Commission on voting principles were issued in December. Having validated its compliance with international standards, Podgorica is planning to announce the date of the referendum in the coming weeks.
Paradoxically, one of the longest existing states in the Balkans is poised to be one of the last to restore its independence. While the rest of the peninsula was under Ottoman control for almost 500 years, Montenegro preserved its sovereignty and its royal family was linked by marriage to almost every European monarchy. Serbia deposed the Montenegrin king when it gained control of Montenegro after World War I and manipulated the close ethnic affinity and common language of the two nations to claim that Montenegro was simply a province of Serbia.
Montenegrin officials point out that a reaffirmation of statehood will serve to improve relations with Serbia by removing fears of domination and assimilation. At the same time, borders will become increasingly redundant as both states move toward membership in Europe's institutions.
The greatest benefit to Serbia from casting off Kosovo and Montenegro will be its own independence, which has been thwarted by three failed Yugoslavias. Freed from incessant disputes with Podgorica and Pristina over state structures, administrative responsibilities and financial obligations, Belgrade will finally be in a position to build a strong Serbia, pursue more rigorous structural and economic reforms, and move forward on NATO and EU membership.
The surest path to international integration is through legitimate statehood. Only sovereign countries can enter NATO and the EU, not unstable entities, joint states or international dependencies. If the EU disqualifies any legitimate Balkan state from the European project, it will lose credibility and effectiveness as a democratic bloc. Delaying the status question would increase opportunities for cross-border criminal networks, encourage depopulation as locals escape to the richer EU countries and radicalize a younger generation with diminished prospects for employment. It would be less costly and less disruptive to accept three new countries that commit themselves to a process of Europeanization.
Mr. Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is co-author with Ilona Teleki of the "Atlantic Bridges: America's New European Allies," forthcoming from Rowan and Littlefield.
Vujanovic made the request in a letter to parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic and the speaker promptly complied.
A minimum of 45 days must elapse between setting a date and holding a vote, and the vote must take place before local elections due at the end of April, Vujnaovic's office said.
That leaves a five-week period in which the date can be set.
Montenegro's ruling coalition is intent on holding an independence vote this year to break away from the loose union it formed with Serbia in 2003 under European Union pressure, replacing what was left of Yugoslavia.
The EU would rather not see Montenegro become independent, in order to avoid further messy fragmentation of the Balkans. It has grudgingly acknowledged the Adriatic republic's right to hold the plebiscite, but wants clear, internationally accepted rules so there is no dispute about the outcome. Brussels has appointed Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia as special envoy to help negotiate the terms of the vote with the Montenegrin government and opposition, which favours preserving the union with Serbia.
The staunchly pro-independence government is certain the result of the vote would be a majority "Yes" for breaking up the state union, despite polls which suggest the republic is split almost down the middle on the issue.
Serbia's 7.5 million people have separate laws and currency from Montenegro's 650,000 and the EU is negotiating separate economic terms for an association agreement, although it says a final deal would be signed with one country - Serbia-Montenegro.
The EU warns that a split would inevitably interrupt Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks on eventual EU membership, a first phase that is supposed to be concluded by the end of the year.
The EU also worries that a divorce between Serbia and Montenegro could complicate talks on the status of United Nations-run Kosovo province, formally a part of Serbia, which started late last year and are expected to end this year.
The fight was triggered when police moved in to arrest one of the demonstrators in the tense northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica, police spokesman Larry Miller said.
Three people were detained before being released, Miller said.
But Albin Kurti, the leader of the protest group, said two of its members were arrested and beaten inside the police station before being released.
The protesters were from a group calling itself "Self-Determination," which has staged regular protests to demand that the U.N. leave Kosovo and painted slogans opposing the upcoming talks on Kosovo's future.
The group was painting the slogans on U.N. offices in the town, which has been divided for more than six years between an ethnic Albanian south and a Serb-dominated north.
Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since a 1999 NATO air war halted the Serb offensive.
The ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, while Serbs living in Kosovo demand that it remain part of Serbia. Talks to discuss Kosovo's future are expected to begin next week in the Austrian capital, Vienna. [ 18-01-06 1451GMT ]
"I am very optimistic about the negotiations process, because what we stand for is something that the Kosovars want," Thaci told reporters in Vienna.
He made the remarks after meeting with the U.N. mediator on Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, with whom he had discussed the agenda of status talks set to begin Jan. 25.
The talks will focus on the decentralization of Kosovo's administration and the protection of minorities and cultural objects in the contested province.
Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, want nothing short of full independence. They argue that Serbia lost the right to govern the province following the war that left an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead.
"What we want is full independence and not autonomy," Thaci said, adding that Kosovo was not the property of Belgrade. "All people of Kosovo will benefit from independence, not just the ethnic Albanians."
Serb leaders, however, insist on keeping at least some formal control over the troubled province -- a place many Serbs consider the heart of their nation.
U.N. officials have said reforming the local government -- with a focus on the rights of Serbs and other minorities in the province -- will be a key factor in determining Kosovo's future status. They see it as a way to forestall the division of the province along ethnic lines.
Ethnic Albanian leaders insist the process is an internal matter for Kosovo and should not be a subject of negotiations with Serbia.
However, they did not oppose the possibility of a meeting to discuss the issue in Vienna.
According to Thaci, the process will start with a one-day meeting on Jan. 25, where both sides will table their positions. On Jan. 31, the foreign ministers of the Contact Group on Kosovo will meet in London with Ahtisaari.
Belgrade and the province's Serbs demand broad autonomy in areas where they constitute a majority. Kosovo's government has put forward a plan that envisages new municipalities run by Serbs, albeit in smaller units than they demanded earlier.
Ahtisaari, a former Finish president, has dealt with Kosovo in the past.
In 1999, he negotiated a deal with then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that put an end to the NATO bombing of Serb forces -- a campaign aimed at stopping the crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
That deal put Kosovo under U.N. administration but left its status unresolved.
The Czech representative who will cooperate with his Slovak counterpart would inform the ministry about developments in the south Serbian province of Kosovo at a time when talks on its future are beginning, Pojar said.
He said that a concrete candidate had not yet been discussed.
"It should be a person who has monitored the developments in the Balkans and Kosovo for a long time and could be either from Prague or a member of the Czech embassy in the region," Pojar said.
At present, the Foreign Ministry receives information from Kosovo from the Czech embassy in Belgrade. Most European Union countries have their representatives in Kosovo, he added.
Regarding the Czech Republic's position on Kosovo, Pojar again stressed that Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's (senior governing Social Democrats, CSSD) last year's proposal to divide the region along the ethnic lines is not the Czech Republic's official position.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2006
BABIN MOST, Kosovo The concrete barrier that encircles this Serbian village is supposed to prevent anyone traveling on one of the main roads of Kosovo from taking a potshot at any of its 1,000 inhabitants.
The last attack was in 2000 when two Kosovo Albanian gunmen shot and killed a local Serb shopkeeper and the wall, 4 meters, or more than 12 feet, high was built as a defense.
Its continued existence is a reminder of the deep divisions remaining despite six and half years of international supervision of Kosovo, a province of Serbia that is populated chiefly by separatist ethnic Albanians.
On Jan. 25, talks are to start in Vienna that both Serb and Albanian leaders hope will lead to the removal of the barrier in Babin Most and others like it.
Interethnic violence has bubbled up ever since Kosovo was placed under the authority of the United Nations in June 1999. At the time Serb-led security forces, accused of widespread atrocities in the province, were forced to leave under the weight of a NATO bombing campaign. To this day, Serb and Albanian communities live overwhelmingly separate lives.
International officials say that without an agreement on the province's future, there is little chance of reconciliation.
The negotiations chaired by Martti Ahtissari, a former Finnish president and a veteran negotiator, were approved by the UN in October and ultimately will determine whether Kosovo becomes an independent state, the goal desired by the ethnic Albanian majority, or remains a part of Serbia.
That core issue is one of the most intractable problems left over from the breakup of Yugoslavia, a process that began with the wars of the 1990s.
Serbs regard Kosovo as intrinsically linked with their religion, history and identity. But Albanians make up more than 90 percent of the population and after brutal repression during the 1990s are adamantly opposed to a return to Serbian rule.
Officials in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, rule out independence for Kosovo but, speaking practically, they concede that they cannot regain control over the province. They have ruled out direct rule from Belgrade, and acknowledge that a return of Serbian forces could provoke a new conflict.
"We don't want to have troops that could be seen as an occupying force," said Alexander Simic, an adviser to the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, and the Serbian negotiating team. "We don't want to provoke the future instability of the region."
Still there are many problems.
The negotiations, which are expected to last at least throughout the summer, are to cover the protection of Serb patrimonial and cultural sights in Kosovo, the freedom of movement of minorities and the protection of minority rights in a new constitution.
Both sides agree that the key to reconciliation lies in giving those Serbs living in Kosovo more say in running their affairs. By this, both the UN and the Albanian majority tacitly agree that the current government in Kosovo has failed to meet the needs of the Serbs.
"If I get a traffic ticket I have to go to Pristina to pay it," said Zlatibor Ristic, a Serb living in Babin Most, referring to the provincial capital. "But in order to go to Pristina, I have to have a police escort, because it is too dangerous for Serbs to travel alone there."
The Serb government in Belgrade wants to establish municipalities in areas with Serbian majorities so they can elect and appoint Serbs to the police, the judiciary and to health and education postings.
These issues will quickly touch on matters of sovereignty, where there seems to be little room for compromise.
Albanian negotiators say they may be willing to grant a degree of autonomy to Serb-dominated localities provided that they are linked to the government in Pristina in a Kosovo that is independent. But the Serbs refuse to countenance discussions of Kosovo's independence from Belgrade.
Albanians also worry that the Serbs will try to link the municipalities into "entities" linked to Belgrade. That, the Albanians fear, could lead to new divisions and undercut an independent Kosovo.
"This is code for partition," said Blerim Shala, technical coordinator for the Kosovo Albanian team. "Even the smell of partition is problematic for Albanians and also for the international community."
Other hurdles exist away from the negotiation room.
In Belgrade, the government has a slim working majority in Parliament and may call elections this spring. That could delay the completion of talks by several months.
Also, the head of the Albanian team, Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo, is being treated for cancer and is not expected to see the end of negotiating process. His death could provoke a fierce dispute over his successor as the leader of Kosovo's largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic League of Kosovo.
Western diplomats do not want the negotiations to drag out, fearing that if they do, extremist sentiment could revive.
At a certain point, according to these diplomats in the region and Western capitals, a solution might have to be imposed by the West, granting independence for Kosovo and certain rights for the Serbs living there.
Anticipating that upcoming international talks on Kosovo's future may meet the ethnic Albanian demands for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, the Association of Serb Communities in Kosovo issued a proclamation saying that "whatever the ( ethnic) Albanians are given in relation to Belgrade, (Kosovo) Serbs must get the same from Pristina."
Pristina is the capital of Kosovo, the southern province that has been a U.N. and NATO protectorate since the 1998-1999 war between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
NATO bombing in 1999 forced Serbia to relinquish control over its southern province, the final status of which is to be decided this year under the auspices of the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, Germany and Italy.
About 200,000 Serbs fled Kosovo in 1999, and the remaining 100,000 mostly live in scattered enclaves, under occasional attacks by ethnic Albanian militants.
The leader of the Association of Serb Communities in Kosovo, Marko Jaksic, said that "if (ethnic) Albanians do not wish that Belgrade rules over them, there is no reason for Pristina to rule over Serbs" in Kosovo.
He described the decentralization as allowing self-rule to the Serb enclaves in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up about 90% of the population.
"Decentralization is the key factor for our survival and the possible return of Serb refugees" to their Kosovo homes, he said.
The Weekly Standard
23 January 2006
Volume 11 Issue 18
Copyright (c) 2006, News Corporation, Weekly Standard. All Rights Reserved
by Ismail Kadare
Arcade, 216 pp., $24
ISMAIL KADARE IS THE ONLY Albanian intellectual well known outside the lands where that language is spoken. The Successor, originally published in 2003, is his most recent novel rendered in English. The word "translation" does not really apply here because David Bellos, a Princeton professor of French, does not know Albanian, and reworked this version, and his earlier such efforts with Kadare's writings, from French editions.
Kadare's novels fall into two categories. Volumes like Doruntine, published here in 1990, The Three-Arched Bridge (1997), Broken April (1998), and Spring Flowers, Spring Frost (2002) revive ancient Balkan legends. They sometimes center on a woeful but enduring tradition, the blood feud, which remains a serious problem in northern Albania.
These titles have been successful with Western readers thanks to their exoticism, an occasional air of menace and suspense, and touches of romance. The other stream of Kadare narratives is political: The General of the Dead Army, published here in 1990, and The Concert (1998). They reproduce the ideological issues and convoluted relationships in Communist Albania under the dictatorship created by Enver Hoxha, who ruled the country from 1944 until his death in 1985.
The common element in all of Kadare's fiction is stylistic detachment. The landscape of the Albanian lands is diverse and sometimes spectacular: the high, stunningly lonely peaks known as "the Accursed Mountains," and other impressive ranges, as well as immense lakes and the green fields of Kosovo. Greek, Roman, Slav, Venetian, and Ottoman architectural gems are numerous. But Kadare does not excel at description, and seems a stranger in his native country, even as his stories, which transpire mainly in the minds of his characters, incorporate many an obscure note. These include references to the Kanun, or Albanian customary law, which must be incomprehensible to foreigners. Anyone who has traveled among the Albanians cannot but wonder what impression Kadare's tales make on those who have not. Still, their disengaged temper and insubstantial tissue, set in a fantasy land best called Kadaria, appeal to Western European readers, who take them as simple, undemanding fables perfect for beach reading.
The Successor stands among Kadare's works with overtly political themes, but its indeterminate and formulaic style serves as a thin shroud for its subject: The very real death, in December 1981, in the capital of Tirana, of Mehmet Shehu, the 68-year-old second-in-command to Hoxha. This book may be called a roman à clef--but only barely, since its dust jacket and other publicity matter explicitly identify it with Shehu's demise. It never names the two main figures, Hoxha and Shehu, except as the Guide and (eponymously) the Successor. Yet an introductory note by Kadare states that the resemblance of the characters and circumstances in the book to real individuals and events is "inevitable." As will be seen, it is genuinely fictional, but in a way destined to be overlooked by most non-Albanians.
Kadare presents the death of Shehu as a mystery, and the primary enigma is whether Shehu killed himself or was murdered. A number of potential suspects are introduced, ranging from the dictator to the dead man's wife, and from a potential successor to the Successor to an architect working on the Successor's residence. Much of the plot is taken up with speculation, and even dreams, about these figures. It is also revealed, in passing, that the Successor's daughter Suzana has been involved with a man whose family has roots in the pre-Communist epoch and who is, therefore, politically suspect. In Kadare's quotation from the rhetoric of the time, the Successor "had pushed his daughter into the enemy's clutches."
But finally, The Successor's recounting of the Shehu case is evanescent, ending in confusion. Phrases in Hungarian and Mongolian are gratuitously introduced, apparently to heighten the sense of the bizarre. The final chapter is a monologue by the dead Shehu, which leaves the "mystery" unresolved.
And now, the backstory. In reality, there is little that is puzzling about the death of Mehmet Shehu, aside from whether he was simply killed outright or forced to commit "suicide." From the moment of his death, everybody in Albania and abroad understood that Hoxha, dominated by paranoia, had eliminated a rival--by no means the first, or the only one, whose liquidation was arbitrary and brutal. Mehmet Shehu, an adventurer and soldier, had always excited jealousy in the feckless and effete Hoxha, who affected expensive Italian suits and boutique footwear, and preferred party offices to army fortresses.
By contrast, Shehu was a veteran of the International Brigades in the Spanish civil war, where, like other Albanians, he refused assignment to a battalion under Yugoslav Communist officers. The Albanians preferred to fight alongside the Italian antifascists, which appears logical since Mussolini sent mercenaries to Spain while pursuing imperialist designs on the small Balkan land. (More important, the Albanians feared and distrusted all Serbs, including Communists.) Shehu was a battlefield commander of Albanian partisans during World War II, and became a notably cruel Communist boss in his own right. When Albania sided with China against Russia at the beginning of the 1960s, Shehu was said by Anastas Mikoyan to have declared, "Anyone who disagrees with our leadership on any point will get spit in the face, a blow on his chin, and, if necessary, a bullet in his head."
The immediate pretext for Shehu's downfall has long been known--the seemingly trivial romantic alliance of his child with a member of an anti-Communist family, as mentioned in The Successor without serious elaboration. In the real incident, a wedding engagement linked a son of Shehu, rather than a daughter, with a relative of Arshi Pipa, a dissident author and scholar. Pipa defected to the United States in 1958 and died in Washington in 1997. Although Muslim, Pipa was a strong defender of the Catholic minority in Albania, a particular bête noire of Hoxha. After Shehu's death, Hoxha produced a thick book entitled The Titoites, portraying Shehu as a traitor beginning with his service in Spain, and specifically condemning him for letting a member of his tribe consort with the clan of Pipa.
Ismail Kadare, a long-serving functionary of the Democratic Front, the Albanian ruling authority under communism, does not come to the Shehu-Pipa case with clean hands. In 1990, while the Albanian Communists still enjoyed absolute power, the future author of The Successor published a book titled Invitation to the Studio. (He then left for France, where sales of his writing in translation had provided him with a respectable bank account.) In Invitation to the Studio, Kadare denounced Pipa as "diabolical; to his misfortune mediocre; a snitch; absolutely a spy; an old hyena; a new Salieri." Kadare referred to this Muslim opponent of dictatorship by the Serbian name Pipitch, which he compared to the sound of urination. Kadare himself thus contributed to the original and unmysterious mystification about the death of Shehu. If anyone alive knows the truth of how Shehu perished, it is Ismail Kadare--but he has chosen not to disclose it.
The Successor is, then, truly fictional in its intentional blurring of the facts in the Shehu case--not for literary purposes, but to shield Kadare himself. Since his departure from Albania, Kadare has made an extraordinary effort to present himself as an anti-Hoxha dissident when, in fact, he was a figurehead for the most tyrannical order in Balkan history, and a persecutor of intellectual dissidents. Kadare has been fairly successful at this game among non-Albanians; earlier this year he was awarded the first Man Booker International Prize by clueless judges who treated him as a champion of creative freedom. But this led to numerous protests by Albanians and their friends, as well as by experts on Albanian culture and history, who are not fooled. It has also led, in response, to loud, defensive squeals from Professor Bellos at Princeton, who has made the promotion of Kadare his main résumé item.
Such is the state of literature today. A Communist hack reinvents himself as a martyr to liberty; his books, in a little-known language, are introduced to American readers by a man "translating" at second hand, missing references and nuances present in a foreign idiom. Prizes are awarded, and the chests of bien-pensants swell with pride.
Kadare has tried for years to get the Nobel Prize. Given the recent record of the Swedish Academy in presenting that honor to such charlatans as last year's recipient, Harold Pinter, Kadare should not have much longer to wait. But Albanians have enduring memories--strong enough to recall the case of Mehmet Shehu without help from an obfuscating novelist--and should Kadare get the Nobel Prize, Albanians and their genuine friends will not be fooled.
Stephen Schwartz has published three books in Albanian, including a recent translation of The Two Faces of Islam.
Stefan Lehne, who will represent the E.U. in the upcoming U.N.-mediated talks, will meet with Kosovo's leaders and U.N. officials, said Torbjorn Sohlstrom, an E.U. official in the province.
The two-day visit will include discussions on the status talks process but also on the E.U.'s future role in Kosovo, in fields such as justice and policing, after its status is decided, Sohlstrom said.
Lehne was appointed last year as the E.U.'s representative to help former Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari, who will lead those discussions. He currently serves as director for southeastern Europe at E.U. headquarters and is a senior adviser to E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
E.U. officials recommended late last year the bloc take over policing duties in Kosovo from the U.N., which has been administering the province since 1999, adding the E.U. had a responsibility to help rebuild the troubled Balkan province.
A report drafted by Solana and E.U. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn suggested the E.U. prepare for a police mission, which would be deployed after Kosovo's future status has been decided.
Although still technically a province within the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted ex-president Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.
Serbian leaders want Kosovo to be split administratively between its majority Albanians and minority Serbs, granting Albanians self-government while keeping the province part of Serbia. Ethnic Albanians are pressing for complete independence from Belgrade.
U.N.-sponsored final status discussions for Kosovo are expected to begin next week in Vienna, Austria.
PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Veterans of the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla army expressed disgust on Tuesday at the idea of negotiating with Serbia on the future of the province, and said protests were possible.
"Based on the blood that was shed ... on the historic, political and legal arguments, these talks are imposed and unjust," said Sherif Krasniqi, head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans.
"We're afraid the aim of these talks on status is to convince the people of Kosovo to accept whatever is served up to them. Kosovo Albanians want only recognition of their right to self-determination, to decide their own future," he told Reuters in his rundown office in Pristina's "KLA" street.
Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials hold direct talks next week in Vienna, the first since the United Nations launched a mission late last year to decide the fate of Serbia's southern province, a U.N. protectorate for almost seven years.
Two million Kosovo Albanians, roughly 90 percent of the population, say independence is non-negotiable. Serbia insists Kosovo is the sacred cradle of the Serb nation and can never become a separate state.
The KLA emerged in 1997 as Kosovo Albanians grew tired of a policy of passive resistance to Serb repression. Its guerrilla war drew a brutal response by Serb forces, accused of killing 10,000 Albanian civilians and expelling 800,000 more.
"We talked with Serbia through the war we fought," said Krasniqi, who was based in the hardline Drenica region.
Lords of their own manor since NATO bombs drove out Serb troops in 1999, Kosovo Albanians are in no mood to compromise. They look on the U.N.-led process of negotiation with Belgrade with deep suspicion and distaste.
"From the promises of the local and international politicians ... we don't believe the status of Kosovo will match what the people fought for," said Krasniqi, a small, grey-haired man in a brown striped suit.
He said the possibility of protests "cannot be excluded". Asked if Kosovo's U.N. overseers should be concerned about the veterans, he replied: "They should be. Our members have sacrificed the most and deserve to be respected".
The major powers have not publicly stated their intentions, but Western diplomats say Kosovo will almost certainly win independence by the end of 2006.
But there will be strings attached, including significant concessions and guarantees for the beleaguered Serb minority and some form of continued international supervision.
Keeping a lid on the frustrations and fears felt by Krasniqi and others like him will be key. Diplomats say a repeat of Albanian mob riots against Serbs in March 2004, in which 19 people died, could derail the entire process.
(Additional reporting by Shaban Buza)