Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mitrovica officials welcome Contact Group's statement on northern Kosovo

Text of report by Izedin Krasniqi entitled "Time for concrete steps in north" published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 6 August

Mitrovice [Kosovska Mitrovica], 5 August: A day after the Contact Group's 10 points for resolving the issue of northern Kosova [Kosovo] were made public, local political leaders were requested to take concrete actions to ease tensions, which are also being manifested with the claims that Serbs in the north have started getting armed.

In a press release, the Contact Group members have expressed their concern over the situation in the north, calling on Prishtina [Pristina], Belgrade and the citizens of Kosova to take steps to ensure that northern Kosova remain stable, Kosova's future status notwithstanding. They said that the solution for the town of Mitrovice should also be functional and realistic, and that it should guarantee the rights of all residents.

Commenting on these positions last Saturday [5 August], Mitrovice municipal assembly chairman Mursel Ibrahimi welcomed the Contact Group's views, saying that the municipal assembly has contributed to respecting all communities within its competencies.

He said that the resolution of the issue of Mitrovice, within the Kosova status resolution, should be in the interest of all citizens.

"We support the reform of the local authority in a principled way, but these reforms should be at the service of all citizens," Ibrahimi said, commenting on the Contact Group's statement on decentralization.

However, he argued against the creation of ethnic corridors through decentralization.

"We have to find a solution that will serve the Mitrovice citizens, and not allow the creation of corridors on ethnic grounds, because this is not in the interest of the Serb minority," Ibrahimi said. He added that the team of unity will find solutions for the Serbs' requests.

Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serb List for Kosova-Metohija, assessed that there is nothing new in these assessments.

"I do not believe there is anything new in the Contact Group's positions. It has only reiterated its positions of a few months ago and it is only receiving increased attention in the north of Kosova in a sensitive place and at a sensitive time," Ivanovic said.

He expressed hope that economic support would increase, bringing order to the north.

"We hope that economic support will also increase, because so far, this part of Kosova has not had such economic support. I have the impression that we were sanctioned because, being from the north, we have acted in an unacceptable way. I believe that this situation is coming to an end, and with the increase of investments and political engagement, there will be more order in the north and more prospects," Ivanovic said.

Like Ibrahimi, Ivanovic, too, welcomed the Contact Group's positions that encouraged the Serbs to take part in the institutions of Kosova. Ivanovic said that there were no dilemmas as to whether they should be in the institutions.

"As leaders, we have to stand up for the requests of our people and we have to convince them about this, so that we have the majority's support for inclusion in institutions. In order to come closer to this goal, Belgrade's position could help us a lot. Most of the people there understand that non-participation in elections was a mistake and this mistake is still being made by not giving support to the Serb List," Ivanovic said.

Political analyst Nexhmedin Spahiu also assessed these positions as very positive, even though, in his view, they are "belated".

"In fact, these positions were requested by politicians and prominent people in Mitrovice before the start of the status talks."

According to him, the Kosova government and the political class of Kosova should take these positions seriously and do their utmost to fulfil the obligations that stem from them.

"The fact that the Contact Group mentions Belgrade and Prishtina in the same paragraph implies that, in addition to Belgrade, Prishtina is also, to some extent, responsible and to blame for the situation in the north of Kosova and this should be taken seriously," Spahiu said.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 6 Aug 06 p 2

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