Excerpt from report by Gazmend Syla entitled "Work on cultural heritage intensifies" published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 10 May
Prishtina [Pristina], 9 May: The Kosova [Kosovo] negotiating team's political-strategic group has continued preparations for the next round of talks in Vienna on the topic of protection of cultural and religious heritage, scheduled for 23 May.
"We are preparing draft proposals," Ylber Hysa, head of the sub-group on cultural heritage, told Koha Ditore. "Preparations for the 23 May meeting have been going on for over three months now. We have established a good channel of communications with the Orthodox Church and other interlocutors," he added.
On behalf of the group, Hysa has made a number of visits abroad. In March, he visited UNESCO to discuss the issue of cultural heritage in Kosova, and he has also had discussions with officials of the French Culture, Foreign and Interior Ministries. The issue of protection of the cultural and religious sites of the Serbs in Kosova will be the top priority of the forthcoming meeting.
Hysa explained that as far as the Kosovar side is concerned, two issues are most important at this phase. "The first has to do with avoiding the status of exterritoriality for Serbian Orthodox sites, as was also confirmed by their representatives. The second has to do with the return of archaeological treasures to Kosova from Belgrade. We have indications that this issue was included on their [Serbian] agenda for the talks following our request," he said.
It has been learned that a team of experts has been set up to deal with this topic, and that experts from the countries of the region, and from Sarajevo in particular, have been brought in to bring to Kosova their experience from the discussions they had in Bosnia on the same issue.
Ministry is prepared
Culture Minister Astrit Haracia stated several days ago that the institution he leads is ready for the discussions in Vienna, and that it has already drafted its proposal. Earlier, this ministry was assigned to lead the process of the reconstruction of Serb religious and cultural sites destroyed during the March 2004 riots. [Passage omitted]
Work on the document has lasted for over four months, and experts from outside Kosova were also involved in drafting it. According to the minister, not only the sites damaged or destroyed during the March 2004 riots but all other heritage assets and sites are dealt with in the document.
"Not only the cultural sites that were damaged during March 2004 but also those destroyed during the 1998-99 war were included, and we should not forget those that were systematically destroyed during the period 1990-98," Minister Haracia said.
Islamic Community "ignored"
Most of the facilities destroyed during the period 1990-98 belong to the Islamic heritage of Albanians. The Islamic Community of Kosova [BIK] has expressed astonishment that no one has asked then to become involved in addressing this issue. Resul Rexhepi, an adviser to the BIK Council chairman, said: "Absolutely no one has asked us about anything, while we could have offered important documentation on the destruction of monuments of the cultural and Islamic heritage in Kosova."
"Without ignoring the [heritage of] Orthodox provenance, the cultural heritage of Islamic provenance in Kosova should have been treated as a priority. The entire cultural and religious heritage, without exception, should be included," he said.
Veton Surroi, member of the Kosova status negotiating team, and Ylber Hysa met Mufti Naim Ternava at the BIK premises on 23 February to discuss this issue. A statement issued by the BIK on that day advised that Mufti Ternava had requested that the Islamic spiritual and material heritage in Kosova be treated fully, just as the Orthodox heritage is being treated.
"I have requested from the Kosova institutions that representatives of the Islamic Community of Kosova and those of the Catholic Church be present along with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church," the statement quoted Mufti Ternava as saying.
The same statement cited Ylber Hysa as saying: "Work is being done to treat all objects of cultural and religious heritage according to their historic importance and the values they represent for our people." [Passage omitted]
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 10 May 06 p 2