Text of report by Fatmir Aliu and Sami Kastrati: "Kostunica allowed; Ceku and Haziri also in favour" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 27 June
Prishtina [Pristina], 26 June: The UN Mission in Kosova [Kosovo] decided on Monday [26 June] to allow Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to visit a town in Kosova on St Vitus day, Wednesday 28 June.
A few days ago, Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica asked the authorities of the international administration in Kosova to allow this visit for, as he wrote in his letter, "private and religious" reasons.
UNMIK [UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo] Information Department Chief Alexander Ivanko confirmed to Koha Ditore, and also officially, that the decision whether or not to allow Kostunica has been made and it is in Kostunica's favour.
"We made the decision at 1800 [1600 gmt] and we have already requested the security forces in Kosova to make all the preparations for the visit that we have granted Prime Minister Kostunica. He has asked to visit Gracanice [Gracanica] on St Vitus day and we have allowed this because the request has no political motives behind it, only religious and private ones," Ivankov told Koha Ditore.
He asserted that the Kosova government has been asked and consulted on all these questions. According to Ivankov, the Kosova government did not oppose it. However, on Monday Kosova government officials came out against this visit, and some even tried to pass the responsibility onto the international authorities.
But, according to Ivankov, the most senior officials of the country were asked about Vojislav Kostunica's visit to Kosova. "We consulted Kosova Prime Minister Agim Ceku and his deputy Lutfi Haziri," Ivankov told Koha Ditore.
Meanwhile, other officials of the institutions of Kosova have spoken against Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's visit to Kosova on St Vitus day.
Kosova Assembly Speaker Kole Berisha said that such visits could occur only when Kosova and Serbia are completely separated. He added that if he were to be asked, Kostunica would not be allowed to visit any place or town in Kosova.
"My position would be no, because it is too early to pay a visit to Kosova. We can visit Serbia, and Belgrade can visit Kosova once we are completely separated. If I were to be asked about Kostunica's visit, I would say no. It is UNMIK, however, that is responsible for this issue," Berisha said.
Kosova government spokeswoman Ulpiana Lama repeated the same words for all the local and international media throughout her working day and she conveyed the message that it is not up to the local authorities to decide whether or not to allow Kostunica to pay a visit to Kosova, because the request was addressed to UNMIK.
"The request was not made to us, the Kosova government, but to the UNMIK authorities; therefore, it is up to them to give an answer," Lama said.
She added that there are two elements to be considered in this visit: the visit of Kostunica as a citizen, and that of Kostunica the politician. "As a citizen, anyone can come to Kosova, celebrate religious holidays, and exercise religious freedom, for as long as the Kosova government and the Kosovar society promotes and protects the principle of the freedom of movement. As a politician, Kostunica should be careful not to manipulate the passions of the audience that he addresses and he should not misuse the opportunity that is being offered to him. Moving forward a political agenda that favours separation and outlines divergences only discredits the personality of Kostunica as a politician before the eyes of the international community," Lama said, outlining her advice for Kostunica.
According to Serbian news agencies, Belgrade officials said that "Kosova and Metohija and the Gracanice Monastery are the places that the Serbian prime minister should visit and where he should be with the Serb people on St Vitus day."
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica made his request to visit Kosova on 28 June, on the day of St Vitus, which, in the collective memory of Serbs, is the 617th anniversary of the Battle of Kosova in 1389, when the army of the Balkan peoples and that of the Ottoman Empire confronted each other. Seventeen years ago, in 1989, Slobodan Milosevic held a nationalistic speech in Gazimestan [Kosovo Polje], heralding the beginning of bloody wars in the former Yugoslavia.
However, the visit by the Serbian prime minister is not the first by a Serbian official. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic visited Kosova last year on this holiday. This visit was also marked by protest.
At the time when the decision was made by the international administration, the town of Gracanice, which is located 6km east of Prishtina, was at the stage of making security preparations. Two police patrols were placed at its entry and exit, while police forces and Kfor [Kosovo Force] military troops were located in the town itself and around the Gracanice Monastery.
Sources from the Kosovar police said that if the movements inside and outside Gracanice are not completely limited on Tuesday and Wednesday, then measures will be stepped up to include a search of all vehicles that come in and out of the town.
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 27 Jun 06